Pache earns CF job: 'A force and a weapon'

Freeman relishes Opening Day experience; Braves to increase capacity

April 1st, 2021

Braves manager Brian Snitker never wanted to say and were battling for the starting center-field job. But the skipper did at least congratulate Pache for winning the role after proving he belonged on Atlanta’s Opening Day roster.

Pache ranks as the Braves’ top prosect and baseball’s No. 12 prospect, per MLB Pipeline.

“I didn’t realize how good this kid is in center field,” Snitker said. “My God, he is a force and a weapon. You look at the skill set and what he brings, he’s kind of what today’s player looks like. He’s a big, strong, athletic guy. We’re excited about him.”

Pache was placed in the lineup’s eighth spot when the Braves opened the season against the Phillies on Thursday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. The 22-year-old outfielder improved his bid for the job when he was unexpectedly pressed into duty during last year’s National League Championship Series.

When Adam Duvall strained an oblique during the second inning of Game 1 of the NLCS, Pache became Atlanta's center fielder for the remainder of the seven-game set. His previous Major League experience consisted of four plate appearances and some late-inning assignments as an outfielder or pinch runner.

Still, Pache held his own, going 4-for-22 with a home run and a double in the NLCS. He hit just .184 (7-for-38) during Spring Training, but recorded four hits, including two doubles in his last 11 at-bats.

“His slash line wasn’t great in Spring Training, but the at-bats were better than some of the numbers,” Snitker said. “He’s got a long ways to go, but hopefully we can stick with him and have patience, because we think the upside on this young man is really big.”

Extending history
Reigning NL Most Valuable Player Freddie Freeman made his 11th Opening Day start against the Phillies. The only players to make more for the Braves are Hank Aaron (20), Chipper Jones (16), Eddie Mathews (15), Dale Murphy (13) and Rabbit Maranville (12).

“The first one and the 11th one, they’re all the same,” Freeman said. “They’re all exciting. You don’t get much sleep. You wake up before your alarm goes off. This is what we’ve all been working for, to start the grind. No. 11, it’s pretty special and pretty amazing. It definitely still feels like it’s No. 1 for me.”

Increasing capacity
The Braves announced they will increase their attendance capacity to 50 percent for the team’s second homestand, which includes series against the D-backs (April 23-25) and Cubs (April 26-29). This will allow a little more than 20,000 fans to attend each of those games.

Approximately 13,500 fans will be permitted to attend games during the first homestand, which includes games against the Phillies (April 9-11) and Marlins (April 12-15).

Keeping with health and safety protocols, fans will be asked to wear a mask when not actively eating or drinking. Fans will also have a contactless experience via mobile ticketing and ordering.