As the Braves opened their season in New York on Friday, both of their catchers were back in Atlanta dealing with symptoms linked to COVID-19.
Both Travis d’Arnaud and Tyler Flowers have experienced symptoms over the past couple days, but neither has tested positive for the coronavirus. The Braves had been hopeful at least one of these veteran catchers might improve enough to responsibly fly to New York for Friday afternoon’s season opener against the Mets.
“They’ve just got to feel better,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I don’t know it’s not just a bad cold or something you would get. But in these times, the red flag goes up and you’re cautious. If this had happened a year ago today, we’d bring them in, treat them and who knows, they’d probably still be available.”
Alex Jackson and promising prospect William Contreras will serve as Atlanta's catchers while d’Arnaud and Flowers are on the COVID list. Jackson has rounded into a serviceable backstop over the past couple years. Contreras stands as the club’s most improved prospect since Spring Training ended in Marc
“I wasn’t shocked to hear it, because we had heard the past couple days [Flowers and d’Arnaud] had had some symptoms,” Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman said. “Unfortunately, I think this is what is going to happen. There’s no such thing as a common cold anymore. So if you have symptoms, this is what is going to happen.”
Freeman addressed his Braves teammates this past week to discuss the importance of being truthful and transparent about how they were feeling.
Before testing positive earlier this month, Freeman battled a fever on July 2 and then awoke on July 3 feeling better. Instead of rushing to Truist Park for the team’s first Summer Camp workout that day, he fortunately stayed home. That night, Freeman learned of his positive result and battled a fever that rose to 104.5 degrees.
“If I hadn’t said anything, I would have infected this whole team,” Freeman said. “So I applaud [d’Arnaud and Flowers] for being truthful. It’s tough when you lose your two catchers. But no one is going to feel sorry for us. The Nationals didn’t have Juan Soto last night. It’s going to be happening throughout the course of this year.”
d’Arnaud began feeling sick before the Braves opted not to start him against the Marlins in an exhibition game on Wednesday afternoon. Flowers began showing symptoms a little later. Both had been with the team during Tuesday night’s game against Miami.
“Everyone is testing negative,” Snitker said. “It’s just that they’re symptomatic and we just don’t want to take a chance.”
Both Atlanta catchers will continue to undergo testing while keeping the staff informed of their symptoms. There’s a chance at least one of them could join the team on this road trip that concludes on Tuesday in St. Petersburg. But the potential length of their respective absences will not be known until it’s learned whether they have been infected by the virus.