Braves’ Michael Harris II leaves game, will go on injured list

Atlanta Braves center fielder Michael Harris II (23) comes out of the game after advancing to third base during the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Truist Park, Friday, June 14, 2024, in Atlanta. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Atlanta Braves center fielder Michael Harris II (23) comes out of the game after advancing to third base during the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Truist Park, Friday, June 14, 2024, in Atlanta. (Jason Getz / AJC)

The Braves are dealing with another injury: Outfielder Michael Harris II left Friday’s game against Tampa Bay with left hamstring tightness. He will undergo an MRI on Saturday and go on the injured list, manager Brian Snitker said after his team’s 7-3 victory.

Harris, who singled to open the bottom of the first at Truist Park, pulled up as he approached third base. He quickly exited the game, replaced by J.P. Martinez.

“He just said he felt something and that’s usually not good,” Snitker said. The MRI will determine the severity of the strain.

“It’s tough,” third baseman Austin Riley said. “What he does out there in center and in our lineup, you hate that. You really do. Seems like we’ve been snakebit on injuries this year, but it’s got to be that next-guy-up mentality, and I’m sure whoever steps in will do just fine.”

Atlanta Braves center fielder Michael Harris II (23) hits a single during the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Truist Park, Friday, June 14, 2024, in Atlanta. Harris got injured during the first inning shortly after this hit. The Braves won 7-3. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

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Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Harris seemed to be finding an offensive rhythm, going 6-for-18 over his last five games. “I hate it for Michael, he was swinging the bat pretty good,” Snitker said.

The Braves were already short-handed in the outfield, down reigning National League MVP Ronald Acuña due to a torn ACL. The team has played former platoon partners Jarred Kelenic and Adam Duvall as everyday outfielders since Acuña’s injury. Harris has been leading off for the Braves against right-handers, so that’s another void the team must address in his absence.

Losing Harris is a major blow, especially for a franchise already tasked with overcoming key injuries. The Braves were expected to pursue outfield help before the trade deadline, and this will only increase the urgency.

But in the meantime, the Braves will have to figure out how to handle their outfield situation.

“Somebody is going to get the opportunity to do something really good,” Snitker said. “We’ll decide (Friday) evening who that someone is going to be.”

Atlanta Braves outfielder J.P. Martínez walks toward the dugout after the final out during the sixth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Truist Park, Friday, June 14, 2024, in Atlanta. The Braves won 7-3. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

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Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Martinez, who has just nine at-bats this season, will factor into the equation. The Braves will summon an outfielder from Triple-A Gwinnett, with veteran Ramon Laureano and speedster Forrest Wall the options. Laureano was pulled early from Gwinnett’s game Friday during a 3-for-4 night.

Laureano, whom the Braves signed to a minor-league deal in late May, had some strong seasons for the A’s earlier in his career but hasn’t produced in multiple seasons. He’s hit .211 with a .654 OPS in 230 games from 2022 through 2024. The Guardians released him earlier this year after he hit .143/.265/.229 while striking out nearly 40% of the time in 31 games.

As for the defensive element, the Braves played Kelenic in center field at times during spring training, and he drew complimentary reviews from Snitker. He’s been an excellent defender throughout the season and made a superb leaping catch at the wall Friday. Laureano has played 349 games in center over his career, so he’s experienced there. Martinez has played just two games in center.