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Baseball

    Braves manager Brian Snitker announced the team had four players test positive for COVID-19: first baseman Freddie Freeman, left-hander Will Smith, right-hander Touki Toussaint and utilityman Pete Kozma. Smith and Toussaint are asymptomatic. Freeman and Kozma have fevers, but Kozma is feeling better, according to Snitker. The players gave their consent to announce their names. Read more on this story on ajc.com.
  • The Braves have released their initial player pool for the 2020 season. These are the players who will be eligible for the Braves throughout the 60-game campaign. Pools include those currently on the 40-man roster and additional players who could be selected or promoted to the big-league club later. The maximum pool size is 60, though most teams’ first lists left room for additions. In the Braves’ case, their initial pool included 56 players, 17 of whom are non-roster invitees. The list featured 30 pitchers, seven catchers, 12 infielders and seven outfielders. They can fill the four open spots at any time. The following players comprise the Braves’ pool (non-roster players marked by asterisk): Right-handed pitchers (18): Ian Anderson*, Jasseel De La Cruz, Mike Foltynewicz, Shane Greene, Felix Hernández*, Luke Jackson, Chris Martin, Mark Melancon, Darren O’Day, Chad Sobotka, Mike Soroka, Josh Tomlin*, Touki Toussaint, Jacob Webb, Patrick Weigel, Bryse Wilson, Kyle Wright, Huascar Ynoa   Left-handed pitchers (12): Tucker Davidson, Grant Dayton, Max Fried, Cole Hamels, Tyler Matzek*, A.J. Minter, Kyle Muller*, Sean Newcomb, Philip Pfeifer, Chris Rusin*, Jared Shuster*, Will Smith Catchers (7): Logan Brown*, William Contreras, Travis d’Arnaud, Tyler Flowers, Alex Jackson, Shea Langeliers*, Jonathan Morales* Infielders (12): Ozzie Albies, Yonder Alonso*, Johan Camargo, Charlie Culberson*, Freddie Freeman, Adeiny Hechavarría, Pete Kozma*, Peter O’Brien*, Austin Riley, Braden Shewmake*, Yangervis Solarte*, Dansby Swanson Outfielders (7): Ronald Acuña, Adam Duvall, Ender Inciarte, Nick Markakis, Marcell Ozuna, Cristian Pache, Drew Waters*  Note: A player(s) could still decide to opt out of the season because he or a family member is high-risk. General manager Alex Anthopoulos said last week he didn’t expect anyone to opt out at this time, but the situation is fluid. The Braves also announced reliever Jeremy Walker was placed on the 45-day injured list with a right shoulder impingement. Opening-day rosters will consist of 30 players. That will drop to 28 players after two weeks and 26 players after a month. The pool players who aren’t on the roster will work out at the Braves’ Alternate Training Camp at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville. The list didn’t contain any surprises. Like most teams, the Braves were expected to carry a handful of their top prospects. While not yet official, there won’t be minor-league baseball in 2020, meaning there’s value in carrying prospects even if they don’t play in the majors this season. Anderson, Pache and Waters are the Braves’ top three prospects. Each could make his debut this season, though it’s easier to find opportunity for Anderson than it is the outfielders. The Braves already are dealing with a crowded outfield of veterans. Each of the Braves’ top trio likely already was to debut over the course of a normal 162-game season. That still may be the case, but it’s impossible to project how rosters will unfold over the next few months. Muller, the tall hard-throwing lefty, isn’t expected to join the Braves this season. Instead, he’ll likely continue his development at the alternate camp. The same can be said of Langeliers, whom the team drafted in the first round a year ago and hopes will become its backstop of the future. Perhaps the most notable inclusion was Shuster, whom the team drafted 25th overall earlier this month. When camp opens, it will be Shuster’s first experiences in the organization. As for the major-league team, Soroka, Fried and Foltynewicz headline the rotation. Hamels, who battled shoulder discomfort during the original spring training, is expected to be ready for opening day, according to Anthopoulos.  Hernandez, a former Cy Young winner, showed enough in the exhibition season to provide hope he’ll be able to cover innings. Newcomb was transitioning back into a starter after spending most of last season in the bullpen, and the Braves could rely on him in both roles this season. The pool highlights the Braves’ young pitching depth. Wright, Toussaint and Wilson could play important roles, especially in the early part of the season as pitchers log fewer innings. Anderson, De La Cruz, Weigel and Davidson could make their MLB debuts. The Braves’ bullpen is still deep, featuring former All-Stars Melancon, Greene, O’Day and Smith, along with the strike-throwing Martin. Tomlin and Jackson are expected to be important contributors again. Dayton, Sobotka, Webb, Ynoa, Pfeifer, Rusin, Minter and Matzek provide additional depth. Acuna, Albies, Freeman and Ozuna top the Braves’ lineup, creating one of the better foursomes in baseball. Riley, Camargo, Swanson, Inciarte, Markakis, Duvall and the catching duo of Flowers and d’Arnaud round out a strong group of core position players.  Additional depth includes Culberson, Alonso, O’Brien, Kozma, Hechavarria, Solarte, Waters and Pache. Shewmake, the Braves’ second first rounder of 2019, isn’t expected to make his debut this season. It’s reasonable to think the Braves will try to add another veteran catcher to the mix. If Flowers or d’Arnaud misses time, their third catcher is the inexperienced Jackson, who appeared in four major-league games last year. Contreras, who was added to the 40-man roster this offseason, could crack the bigs this summer but doesn’t solve the inexperience issue. While teams cannot exceed the 60-player limit, they can make transactions that would alter their pools. Signings, releases, waiver claims, designation for assignment, the injured list and other standard moves are permitted during the season. The trade deadline is Aug. 31, just over a month into the season. The deadline for initial player pools was 4 p.m. ET Sunday. Summer training camp begins Wednesday. Opening day is slated for July 23 or 24.
  • The Braves will play ball this summer. That’s according to a rather highly placed source, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred.  He said in two interviews preceding the sport’s amateur draft Wednesday night that there will be an MLB season, one way or the other.  » DRAFT: Braves pick Shuster | Emerson goes 6th | Walker to Cardinals  “We’re going to play baseball in 2020,” Manfred said on MLB Network. “One-hundred percent.”  “I can tell you unequivocally we are going to play Major League Baseball this year,” he reiterated on ESPN.  Read more at AJC.com.
  • Braves outfielder Marcell Ozuna suffered a facial injury after his wife, Genesis, hit him with a soap dish, according to multiple reports. Genesis Ozuna was arrested after a two-week investigation and charged with domestic battery, Andy Slater of Fox Sports 640 in Miami first reported. Ozuna’s injury was described as a “small laceration.” The Braves declined to comment. Ozuna signed a one-year, $18 million deal with the Braves this offseason. The team hoped he could replace some of the middle-of-the-order power lost when Josh Donaldson signed with Minnesota. If there isn’t an MLB season, Ozuna would become a free agent without playing a regular-season game for the Braves. You may find this story and more at AJC.com.
  • The Braves have launched two food programs to meet demand for meals for those in need and in support of healthcare and essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic, the team announced Tuesday. The Braves Home Plate project, in a partnership with Braves concessionaire Delaware North, will prepare food intended for April games in the Truist Park kitchens, for community meals. The Braves will donate more than 25,000 meals over the next four to six weeks (approximately 4,000 – 6,000 meals per week). With the help of food recovery logistics specialists, Second Helpings, Meals on Wheels and GoodR and more than 20 partner agencies like the YMCA, organizations will receive prepared meals for distribution to individuals and families across metro Atlanta. In addition, the Braves will deploy their Los Bravos food truck to join hunger relief efforts underway in communities. The truck is scheduled to visit Chattanooga, Nashville, Gwinnett, Rome and Albany after its initial stop at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta on May 1. The Meals for the Brave project, partners Molson/Coors and Terrapin Taproom, will support local restaurants with food orders which GoodR delivers to front-line medical workers. Each Thursday, through May 7, participating restaurants will supply food to Northside and WellStar Hospitals for both early and evening shift workers. An expected 2,500 meals, from 17 area local restaurants will be served to medical and support staffs. Additionally, Braves corporate partner, Louisiana Hot Sauce has donated $10,000 to GoodR to support their efforts in delivering food to those in need. Local restaurants who are assisting with meals include: Mad Italian, Johnny’s Pizza, Grindhouse Burgers, and Hampton and Hudson, The Grove, Wild Wing – Dunwoody, Six Feet Under, George’s Deli, Three Dollar Café, Righteous Room, Jack’s Pizza, Black Bear Tavern, North River Tavern, Taco Mac, Fox Bros. BBQ and Trackside Tavern. “The Atlanta Braves are proud to help bring needed meals to our community during this crisis,” Derek Schiller, Braves president and CEO, said in a statement. “Great chefs from our ballpark, the availability of our unused food and food truck combined with many of our partners willingness to help lets us assist those in need of meals while also thanking all those on the front lines for their tireless efforts during this time.”
  • For six consecutive nights starting late this month, Fox Sports Southeast will re-air the only World Series the Braves have won since moving to Atlanta.  The 1995 World Series against the Cleveland Indians will be shown, one game per night, starting with Game 1 on April 27 and culminating with Game 6 on May 2.  A short pregame show of sorts will precede each telecast, with Hall of Fame pitchers Tom Glavine and John Smoltz joining Braves broadcaster Chip Caray from their homes to discuss memories of the 1995 championship. Each telecast will begin at 7 p.m.  >> The AJC looks back at the  champion 1995 Braves In one of Caray’s pre-recorded interviews with Glavine and Smoltz, provided by Fox Sports Southeast, Glavine discusses the challenge he famously made to Braves hitters in the dugout during a then-scoreless Game 6.  “The exact quote was, ‘Come on, boys, get me one (run), because they’re not getting any,’ ” Glavine said. “I think for one of the handful of times in my career I honestly felt that way. I mean, I knew I was on my game. I knew I was in the zone. All of those things that you talk about as an athlete, I knew I was there. It truly was that one special moment, I guess, particularly in those circumstances.  “It’s one thing to say that on Sunday afternoon in August. It’s another thing to say it in Game 6 of the World Series. But I felt it. … I was just trying to create a little bit of a spark, and fortunately it created enough spark for that one run we needed.”  David Justice’s sixth-inning home run provided the only run of the Braves’ 1-0 win.  Glavine allowed just one hit in eight innings, and Mark Wohlers pitched a hitless ninth.  Games 1, 4 and 5 of the 1995 World Series originally aired on ABC, with Al Michaels, Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver calling the action. Games 2, 3 and 6 were on NBC, with Bob Costas, Joe Morgan and Bob Uecker in the booth.
  • With live sports events shut down by the coronavirus pandemic, a lot of old games are being re-aired on television and the Internet. And here’s one particularly worth watching: the Braves-Dodgers game of April 8, 1974.  That was the historic game, of course, in which Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run to break Babe Ruth’s career record.   Starting at 7 p.m. Wednesday on their Facebook and YouTube platforms, the Braves will mark the 46th anniversary of that momentous feat by showing it again.   » MORE: How ticket buyers are affected by sports shutdown in Atlanta If you watch, you’ll see Aaron hit No. 715 in the fourth inning against Dodgers pitcher Al Downing before a crowd of 53,775 at Atlanta Stadium (later renamed Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium). You’ll see Aaron’s parents and all of his teammates meet him near home plate after he circled the bases.  Earlier on Wednesday, Atlanta’s Morning News host Scott Slade and WSB Radio Sports Director Jay Black paid homage to that piece of history. Using audio from the stadium as Aaron hits number 715, the pair paused to remember the remarkable moment. The rebroadcast is part of a series of “Braves Classics” the team plans to stream throughout April on social media. Other games coming to the Braves’ Facebook and YouTube channels on the same day of the month  as they originally occurred: the April 10, 2012, game at Houston, featuring Chipper Jones returning from arthroscopic knee surgery to hit a home run in his first game of his final season; the April 14, 2017, regular-season opener at SunTrust Park (now Truist Park); the April 17, 2008, game against the Marlins in which Jones homered twice and John Smoltz picked up the last of his 210 wins as a Brave; and the April 26, 2018, game at Cincinnati in which Ronald Acuna hit his first career homer in his second major-league game. All of those are notable games, but the April 8, 1974, game remains in a league of its own. » ALSO: What’s new at Truist Park? New grass, new scoreboard sign Copy shared from The Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Tim Tucker.
  • With live sports events shut down by the coronavirus pandemic, a lot of old games are being re-aired on television and the Internet. And here’s one particularly worth watching: the Braves-Dodgers game of April 8, 1974.  That was the historic game, of course, in which Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run to break Babe Ruth’s career record.   Starting at 7 p.m. Wednesday on their Facebook and YouTube platforms, the Braves will mark the 46th anniversary of that  momentous feat by showing it again.   » MORE: How ticket buyers are affected by sports shutdown in Atlanta If you watch, you’ll see Aaron hit No. 715 in the fourth inning against Dodgers pitcher Al Downing before a crowd of 53,775 at Atlanta Stadium (later renamed Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium). You’ll see Aaron’s parents and all of his teammates meet him near home plate after he circled the bases.  The rebroadcast is part of a series of “Braves Classics” the team plans to stream throughout April on social media. Other games coming to the Braves’ Facebook and YouTube channels on the same day of the month  as they originally occurred: the April 10, 2012, game at Houston, featuring Chipper Jones returning from arthroscopic knee surgery to hit a home run in his first game of his final season; the April 14, 2017, regular-season opener at SunTrust Park (now Truist Park); the April 17, 2008, game against the Marlins in which Jones homered twice and John Smoltz picked up the last of his 210 wins as a Brave; and the April 26, 2018, game at Cincinnati in which Ronald Acuna hit his first career homer in his second major-league game. All of those are notable games, but the April 8, 1974, game remains in a league of its own. » ALSO: What’s new at Truist Park? New grass, new scoreboard sign
  • Friday will hit even harder than Thursday of last week. The Braves were scheduled to play their first game at the newly named Truist Park on Friday. They would be coming off their opening road trip, a seven-game swing in Phoenix and San Diego that would have begun on that Thursday. They would’ve left California after the 12:40 p.m. (Pacific time) Wednesday series finale, arriving in Atlanta with a Thursday off day to ready themselves for the home opener.  “It’s going to be weird,” manager Brian Snitker said. “I was thinking (Wednesday) night how nice this would’ve been to have gotten home (Thursday) and be with the family. And what a nice, beautiful day it is heading into a really cool weekend. It would’ve been neat. I probably would’ve went to the ballpark today at some point just to get moved in a little bit for a couple hours before getting ready for opening day.” Atlanta was sunny in the mid-60s on Thursday. Friday would be another lovely day for baseball, sporting a mid-to-low 70s temperature and clear skies. Perfect for Georgia’s favorite professional sports franchise to launch its most promising season in years. Instead, Friday we’ll be under the governor’s shelter-in-place decree. The coronavirus pandemic has swept the world, creating issues far beyond the cancellation of sports. The United States is trying to stop the spread, a task that – best case – won’t be completed for months, according to numerous health professionals.  >> Photos: Truist Park without baseball Snitker, like almost everyone else, is sidelined at home during this uncertain time. He’s kept busy with small projects around the house. He’s done yard work. He still enjoys his routine walks around the neighborhood. He and his wife, Ronnie, moved into their home just over three years ago and have taken this time to unearth some stashed boxes. He and his son, Troy, who’s a hitting coach with the Astros and staying with the family in Atlanta, have gone fishing a couple of times. But that void – baseball, which was set to begin March 26 – can’t be filled. And those digital calendar updates some of you receive regarding Braves game times? Snitker is aware. “Every night, it seems like my wife gets a little blurb on her computer, ‘Oh, man. You guys are playing in 15 minutes,’” he said. “It’s been different. It’s different for everybody. I’ve been telling people, you walk the neighborhood and run into neighbors, it’s as weird for them as it is for us. Teachers, their systems are on go, and they don’t have any kids. People who are in companies that are laying people off. We’re just a small, small piece of the whole thing.” Snitker stressed sports are among the smallest concerns in this ever-changing crisis. Still, there’s no getting around how strange it is for a baseball lifer to be sitting idle in early April. Snitker has been in the Braves organization for over 40 years. Baseball has been at the epicenter of his life, as a child and an adult. He sympathized with players, knowing many of them are directionless without their greatest passion. He recalled the disappointed vibe in the room when he met with his team for the final time before they departed Florida.  “I don’t want to make it bigger than what it is because there’s a lot of people who are feeling bad,” Snitker said. “But you had a bunch of guys, it was almost like they were running into each other ’cause they didn’t know what to do. I felt bad because they’re sitting there looking at each other like, ‘God, what do we do now?’ Some of the minor league guys, if they lived across the country, a couple of them had their families and had to drive back. They need to work, they need to get paid. Even some of the single guys, I mean, they play baseball. That’s what they do. They’re like lost souls. I felt bad for them cause all they want to do is play baseball. This time of year, when the systems are on go, that’s a hard adjustment to make. I feel bad for the guys, everybody. “You have to deal with it. It can’t get you because if you let it get you, it will. We’re in it for the long haul pretty much.” The Braves played their last game March 12, in Lakeland. MLB suspended operations that afternoon. The team initially planned to remain in Florida for workouts but would take the weekend off while the spring training facilities underwent a deep cleaning. After conversations with the Players Association, players were granted the freedom to return home. The idea of any group workouts was vanquished. Snitker last addressed his team on that Saturday morning. Players began clearing out. Snitker and Ronnie left on the ensuing Tuesday. “I get home (from Florida) and reality sets in my neighborhood,” he said. “I feel bad for everybody around here who has business and are having to lay people off. Or maybe they’re one of the people who’ve gotten laid off. I talked to a buddy of mine (Wednesday) from Louisiana, and his company has had to lay off a number of people because in an oil industry, the prices are what they are and they can’t take on jobs. It’s tough, man. Our situation is bad, but there’s a lot of people doing a lot worse than we are.” Snitker touched base with his players Wednesday via text. He heard back from everyone, saying each player is doing well and trying to stay in shape. Some have even ordered home gyms. Snitker added he thinks the fathers are gaining further appreciation for their wives and for teachers. The Braves’ training staff has stayed in constant communication with each player. Pitching coach Rick Kranitz and bullpen coach Marty Reed have developed a throwing program for the pitchers, so when they throw, they’re texting with that pair. Kranitz and Reed wanted to provide guidelines and track the pitchers’ work. With players and coaches separated, each sheltered at the place they deem home, that’s the most structure fathomable. “They’re dealing with it,” Snitker said. “They have to. They’re wired to deal with situations like this. None of them like it, but it’s what we’re doing right now. It was good to hear from everybody. There’s really nothing (I can say) other than be safe, take care of your family. But it’s good to reach out, and it was cool to hear from everybody and what they’re doing.” Snitker won’t speculate if or when the season could return or how baseball would formulate its unconventional schedule. He said he hasn’t allowed himself to think about it. “My thing is when they tell us to speed this thing back up, we will,” he said. “It doesn’t do me any good to speculate, what ifs. I don’t know the nuts and bolts of all that kind of stuff. Everybody is just waiting. People have asked me all these different questions. “There’s a lot of people working on this every day. I know they’re agonizing over what ifs, whens and all that stuff. I just think whenever we get the go-ahead to play, that everyone will be really excited and ready to get back after it.” Whenever that day comes, it can act as a healer for the nation. Live sports’ return would signal a recovering country, that hopefully the worst is behind us. Baseball last acted as a post-tragedy unifier in 2001, when 10 days after 9/11, the Braves and Mets came together to play the first game in New York City. There’s no end in sight for the current pandemic. But Snitker, along with the rest of the sports universe, longs to hear the next on-field national anthem because of what it would represent. “I thought this would be a great thing for our country if we can play baseball again,” he said. “That’s the underlying theme. When I’m walking the neighborhood, (people tell me) they miss it, too. I told somebody, ‘I don’t know that we’re going to be (complaining) about 4-1/2 hour Red Sox-Yankees games anymore.’ We might appreciate what we have a lot more and not take so many things for granted.  “We’re seeing how fragile life – I’ve always preached that you’re never guaranteed tomorrow in anything. That’s why you live for today. Some of the things we took for granted, we won’t be taking for granted after going through this. “I watched ‘Field of Dreams’ the other day, and you listen to what’s going on in that, it kind of hits home. I watched that movie a little differently. Baseball is good for our country. Hopefully, when and if we get playing again, people will have a sense that things are getting better and righting themselves. It’ll be good for all concerns if we can get back playing.” In the meantime, everyone will try to make the best of a poor situation. Snitker has enjoyed watching old games. He reminisced about the 23-22 Phillies-Cubs shootout in 1979. He watched the legendary 16-inning affair between the Astros and Mets in the 1986 National League Championship Series. Snitker gets a kick out of the little things from those days: the play styles, the uniforms, the bullpens. He laughed at broadcaster Jack Brickhouse’s comment about how hard a pitcher was throwing because there were no radar guns to track velocity. The Braves will be streaming interviews at 5:30 p.m. Friday, part of their efforts to connect with fans on what would’ve been the beginning of their home slate. It will feature interviews with general manager Alex Anthopolous, first baseman Freddie Freeman and Snitker. But it won’t be opening day at the yard. The Braves won’t be hosting the Marlins. The Battery Atlanta, which would’ve been so full of life, won’t even see a tumbleweed. Truist Park will remain what it will be indefinitely: empty. “Opening days are really cool,” Snitker said. “They’re special. It’s going to be different knowing we should’ve been out there playing. It’s going to hit home more Friday than it even did last Thursday.”
  • On the day of what would have been their home opener, the Braves plan to present an “At Home Opener” via social-media channels Friday.  The 90-minute programming will begin at 5:30 p.m. and will include remote interviews by Braves broadcasters with general manager Alex Anthopoulos, manager Brian Snitker and first baseman Freddie Freeman.  » MORE: 10 Braves season openers The Braves said the programming also will include the national anthem performed by Timothy Miller, messages from players and appearances by ballpark regulars “RaceTrac’s Beat the Freeze” and “The Home Depot Tool Race,” among other features. The program, which will be hosted by Braves in-game emcee Mark Owens, will run until 7 p.m. on the Braves’ YouTube, Facebook and Los Bravos Facebook platforms.  It will lead to Fox Sports South’s telecast of a replay of the Braves’ home opener from last year — an 8-0 win over the Chicago Cubs — starting at 7 p.m. The Braves originally were scheduled to open the 2020 season at Arizona last week and were scheduled to play their home opener against the Miami Marlins at Truist Park on Friday night. The MLB season is postponed indefinitely because of the coronavirus pandemic.