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Health, safety top of mind in Braves' camp

@mlbbowman
July 3, 2020

ATLANTA -- After partaking in the first day of Summer Camp at Truist Park on Friday morning, shortstop Dansby Swanson provided a good perspective when asked how his excitement compares with what he usually feels at the start of Spring Training. “I think it’s a hard comparison, honestly, just because

ATLANTA -- After partaking in the first day of Summer Camp at Truist Park on Friday morning, shortstop Dansby Swanson provided a good perspective when asked how his excitement compares with what he usually feels at the start of Spring Training.

“I think it’s a hard comparison, honestly, just because of all that is going on,” Swanson said. “We’re so fortunate to be here and still doing our jobs. I don’t think anybody has lost sight of that. I’m just very appreciative and blessed to be able to be back out here. I enjoy being around people I haven’t been able to see for a long time. So I’m very grateful.”

Swanson wore a mask while partaking in a Zoom call with media members, displaying the responsibility people have been asked to assume while fighting the spread of COVID-19. This coronavirus that delayed the season continues to affect the lives of many throughout the world.

So it was easy to understand why Swanson and many of the other Braves were not feeling that usual “first day” excitement as they experienced Summer Camp’s opening. Instead of sharing hugs or handshakes with friends and teammates, the players and coaches were left exchanging elbow bumps and smiles.

“We just have to be smart,” pitcher Cole Hamels said. “If we can keep each other accountable in that area, it’s for the better, because I think a lot of us would rather be playing baseball than being at home. This is what we’re designed to do. This is what we love to do.”

Healthy Hamels throws, readies for season

Feeling safe: Manager Brian Snitker is 64 years old. Three of his coaches -- third-base coach Ron Washington (68), pitching coach Rick Kranitz (61) and assistant hitting coach Juan Castro (62) -- are all over 60 and thus are considered to be at a higher risk. So, too, is home clubhouse manager John Holland, who has been with the organization since 1969.

Each understands the risk. But Snitker says the health and safety protocols, which include multiple daily screenings and regular testing, allow him to feel safer at the stadium than at many of the other places he’d be visiting if the baseball season were not transpiring.

“I told somebody I feel more safe in this environment than I do going to the grocery store to buy a gallon of milk,” Snitker said. “Everybody has been tested. There’s going to be risk. There are risks everywhere, especially when we travel.

“Everybody knows what the situation is, and we all have to do our part. It’s the new normal. We’re all adapting and adjusting to the new normals.”

Soroka, Fried throw BP: Mike Soroka and Max Fried, along with Mike Foltynewicz, kept the Braves updated as they spent the past few months keeping their arms strong by throwing at high school and college fields in suburban Atlanta. Even so, the team will take some caution before determining where each of them stands from a conditioning and stamina standpoint.

The Braves got a sense of where Soroka and Fried stand as they threw batting practice to a group that included Marcell Ozuna, Tyler Flowers and Nick Markakis. The sessions went as expected, with the pitchers having the advantage over the hitters, who have not routinely seen live pitching over the past four months.

“Every [starter] is in a different spot,” Snitker said, “so we have to communicate with them and keep our eyes on them to see where they’re at. As we plan for the next three weeks, we’re going to have to get the guys on schedule.”

Snitker will get a better feel for each of his starters over the next few days, but the better evaluations will be made when the team begins playing intrasquad games next week. The Braves have already said that most of their starters will be limited to three or four innings within their first two regular-season starts.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.