Braves’ Ozuna will be sidelined for six weeks

Braves left fielder Marcell Ozuna homers at Truist Park on Friday, May 21, 2021, against the Pittsburgh Pirates. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

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Braves left fielder Marcell Ozuna homers at Truist Park on Friday, May 21, 2021, against the Pittsburgh Pirates. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

The Braves will have to deal with the loss of another key player, learning Wednesday that left fielder Marcell Ozuna will be sidelined for about six weeks because of the hand injury he suffered in Tuesday’s game against the Red Sox.

Ozuna returned from Boston to Atlanta for tests, which revealed fractures of the ring and middle fingers on his left hand, Braves manager Brian Snitker said.

“It’ll be around six weeks, so that’s a significant time to be without a big player on your team,” Snitker said.

Ozuna commented on the news in a post on his Instagram account, writing in Spanish: “Thanks to everyone who took a minute of their time to worry about me. I’m fine because God wanted it that way, thank God nothing more serious happened, now wait 6 weeks to recover. Thank you all.”

The injury means the Braves now are without two of the four “Silver Slugger” award winners from last season’s team. Catcher Travis d’Arnaud is expected to be sidelined at least until late in the season after having surgery early this month on a torn left-thumb ligament.

Ozuna has struggled at the plate this season, hitting .213 with seven home runs and 26 RBIs through 48 games. But last year, he led the National League in home runs (18) and RBIs (56) while hitting .338 across the shortened 60-game schedule.

The injury occurred as Ozuna was diving toward third base in the third inning of Tuesday night’s game. He was attempting to advance from second base on a fielder’s-choice grounder, but his ring finger, in particular, appeared to bend awkwardly as Ozuna’s left hand caught on Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers’ foot.

After the game, Snitker described the injury as dislocated fingers, as initial X-rays at Fenway Park didn’t reveal the fractures. But Snitker said at the time that Ozuna would return to Atlanta for further tests to determine if the injury was anything more serious.

“I was hoping maybe they wouldn’t have found anything (more) and it’d have been a couple days, get some swelling down and get him back out there,” Snitker said Wednesday. “Obviously, they found the fractures. ... If there’s a good thing, it’s that it’s not a surgical process. They just cast him up, and it’s going to take time.”

The Braves will evaluate over the next couple of days how to adjust their outfield in Ozuna’s absence. Internal and, if possible, external options will be considered.

“We’ll just kind of regroup here and see what we’ve got,” Snitker said. “The off-day (Thursday) will give us a little leeway to figure out what we’re going to do. I’m sure (general manager Alex Anthopoulos) is working on it now.

“We’ve got a bunch of guys doing well at (Triple-A) Gwinnett, so there are internal options that we can call on.”

Asked if the Braves will consider moving third baseman Austin Riley to left field, Snitker said: “Austin is playing so well at third that I hate to move him, but it’s something we surely will talk about.”

For Wednesday’s game at Boston, the Braves operated within their current roster, starting Guillermo Heredia in left field and Ender Inciarte in center. Ozzie Albies moved up to Ozuna’s No. 3 spot in the batting order, with Riley hitting fourth.

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