ATLANTA -- Having been on the COVID-19 injured list for the decisive game of the National League Division Series and a majority of the NL Championship Series, Jorge Soler wishes he had been vaccinated.
“I feel way different now,” Soler said with Braves special representative Eddie Perez serving as his interpreter. “I feel bad about it, and I'm going to get a shot as soon as I can.”
Because Soler wasn’t vaccinated, he was still subject to regular testing, even when he was not showing any symptoms. This led to him testing positive on Oct. 12, a few hours before the Braves played the decisive Game 4 of their NLDS against the Brewers.
Soler had to leave the stadium immediately and remain away from the team for at least 10 days. The veteran outfielder remained asymptomatic throughout this stretch and was added back to Atlanta’s roster on Thursday, when he was cleared by MLB’s Joint Committee to return from the COVID-19-related injured list.
“I feel really bad not being with the team,” Soler said. “I really missed not being here.”
Soler was the Braves’ right fielder and leadoff hitter before this absence. Now, with Eddie Rosario, Joc Pederson and Adam Duvall playing well, there is not an outfield spot for Soler. But Soler can still make an impact off the bench, as he did in the eighth inning of Saturday's 4-2 win in Game 6 of the NLCS, in which he had a pinch-hit double to lead off the eighth.
In the World Series against the Astros, Soler will be a prime candidate to serve as the designated hitter during the games played in Houston.
Braves manager Brian Snitker joyfully watched the Astros win the American League pennant with a win over the Red Sox in Game 6 of the ALCS on Friday night. He celebrated via a FaceTime conversation with his son, Troy, who is Houston’s hitting coach.
“It's been a great experience for him, and I'm happy for him,” Snitker said. “‘I said, 'I hope I can join you.’”
There’s no doubt the baseball world would enjoy the feel-good story that would develop if the Braves win another game and create the Snitker vs. Snitker World Series matchup.
For most of the past two decades, Perez has playfully provided reminders that he was the 1999 NLCS MVP. He has spent the past week telling anybody within earshot that the Braves haven’t returned to the World Series since he earned that honor.
“I had to have surgery after the playoff because I was carrying the whole team,” Perez said with a laugh.