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Year after deal, Melancon a boon for Braves

@mlbbowman
July 31, 2020

ATLANTA -- Braves closer Mark Melancon provided some funny insight after notching his first two saves against the Rays at Truist Park this week. “I’ve always said, ‘Block out the fans,’ but I never thought it would actually happen,” Melancon said. “Fortunately, I haven’t really felt any different. It must

ATLANTA -- Braves closer Mark Melancon provided some funny insight after notching his first two saves against the Rays at Truist Park this week.

“I’ve always said, ‘Block out the fans,’ but I never thought it would actually happen,” Melancon said. “Fortunately, I haven’t really felt any different. It must be that really good [piped-in] crowd noise we’ve got going.”

Though fans are not in the stands, Melancon has still heard AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” blaring as he has made his way from the bullpen to the mound during home games. The 35-year-old reliever has had no lingering effects from the stiff back that prevented him from appearing in last Saturday’s 10-inning win over the Mets at Citi Field.

Friday marked the one-year anniversary of the Braves acquiring Melancon from the Giants.

Melancon has converted each of the 13 save opportunities he’s garnered since joining the Braves. But that perfect streak might have ended had Adam Duvall not made a diving grab of José Martínez’s long drive to left field in the ninth on Thursday.

“I feel like [Duvall] is way underrated with his defense,” Melancon said. “It seems like he’s always coming up with a big catch.”

Defensive metrics do recognize how valuable Duvall has been in left field. He leads all left fielders with 21 Outs Above Average dating back to the start of the 2017 season. The Yankees’ Brett Gardner (7 OAA) and the Mets’ Michael Conforto (6 OAA) rank second and third in that span.

Flowers’ bout

Braves catcher Tyler Flowers tested negative for COVID-19 six times last week. But even when he became confident he was not carrying the virus, the lingering congestion caused by what seemed to have been a bad cold kept him from joining the Braves on Monday in Tampa, Fla.

“My thought was I would intimidate everybody on my team with the way I sounded,” Flowers said. “With what [my cough] sounded like, we all agreed it wasn’t a good idea.”

Flowers began battling a sore throat after the Braves’ July 21 exhibition game against the Marlins and showed similar symptoms both of the next two days. He briefly experienced a slight fever on July 24 and dealt with some congestion and body aches the next two days.

Throughout this process, Flowers stayed in contact with fellow veteran catcher Travis d’Arnaud, whose symptoms and timeline were nearly identical. Both worked out at the team’s facilities in the Atlanta area on Tuesday and were activated before Wednesday’s home opener.

Toussaint to fill in

Braves manager Brian Snitker said Touki Toussaint will start Saturday night’s game against the Mets. Toussaint might just temporarily fill the rotation spot that was created when Mike Foltynewicz was designated for assignment after Monday’s game in St. Petersburg.

At some point, the Braves may choose to fill that void with Ian Anderson, who ranks as the game’s No. 37 prospect and Atlanta’s No. 3 prospect, per MLB Pipeline. Anderson is the most intriguing internal option, but without the presence of a Minor League season, it’s hard to gauge where he currently is from a developmental standpoint.

Anderson posted a 6.57 ERA over the five starts he made for Triple-A Gwinnett in 2019. This might have been a product of fatigue that built after he had posted a 2.68 ERA in 21 starts for Double-A Mississippi. Anderson’s competition over the past month has been limited to other backups and prospects working out at the Braves’ alternate training site.

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