by Mark Bowman – MLB.com
Freddie Freeman and Will Smith were among the four Braves players who have tested positive for COVID-19.
Having received consent from each player on Saturday, Braves manager Brian Snitker announced Freeman, Smith, Touki Toussaint and Pete Kozma had tested positive.
Smith and Toussaint have been asymptomatic, but Freeman and Kozma have been battling a fever and other symptoms related to the coronavirus.
Freeman tested negative when the team conducted intake testing at the start of this week. But the All-Star first baseman tested positive after he started feeling ill on Thursday night. He had planned to participate in the team’s first workout on Friday.
“[Freeman] is not feeling great, but he’s young and strong,” Snitker said. “He’s going to want to get back out there sooner than later. But the biggest thing we want him to do is just get right and to get better, and then he’ll get back at it. If this has to happen, this is probably the best time.”
Solely from a competitive baseball perspective, there will be a chance for Freeman to recover and possibly be ready to play when the regular season begins three weeks from now.
But Snitker wanted to make sure his players remember that the responsibility they share in fighting against the spread of this virus extends beyond potential wins and losses.
“I think it sobers everybody up and reminds them this is a real thing we are fighting,” Snitker said. “Even taking as great of care as we can, there are still going to be cases. I think one thing they need to remember is that contact part of it. If you test positive, somebody you’re with is going to get shut down for a period of time.”
Freeman will remain isolated from his teammates, but he will maintain communication with the team’s medical staff. He will not be permitted to return until he goes 72 hours without experiencing symptoms and tests negative twice within a span of at least 24 hours.
Because of the measures the team took to keep players separated during intake testing earlier this week, Snitker said Freeman did not knowingly come into contact with any of his teammates.
Freeman and good friend Nick Markakis were at Truist Park at the same time for their intake tests, but Markakis said they were never within 30 feet of each other.
“It [stinks],” Markakis said. “Everybody is in the same boat. Losing a player like Freddie can really hurt your team. But the way things are going right now, we just hope he heals quickly, gets better and gets his butt back out here as quick as possible because we’re going to need him every inning and every pitch.”
Along with revealing the news about Freeman, Snitker said first-base coach Eric Young has informed the team he will elect not to participate this season. His duties, which include outfield and baserunning instruction, will be filled by DeMarlo Hale, who joined the Braves as a special assistant before the 2019 season.
“I applaud EY,” Snitker said. “It was a tough decision for him. He’s a gamer, and we’ll miss him dearly because of what he brings inside this clubhouse with his energy and everything else. He’s chosen to opt out, and we respect that.”
Kozma, who was scheduled to be with the players who will work out at Triple-A Gwinnett’s Coolray Field, told Snitker he had started to feel better over the past two days.
Smith, who signed a three-year, $39 million contract in November, and Toussaint will continue to undergo testing until they receive the negative results that will allow them to begin working out with their teammates.
“I feel like, within the industry, it’s important to remember this is a real deal,” Snitker said. “This virus is nothing to mess with. It’s serious, and it’s something we need to be aware of. We’re going to have to deal with this for the next three months.”
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.