Braves thankful to have Adam Duvall back on their side

Braves' Adam Duvall catches a ball hit by Milwaukee Brewers' Jackie Bradley Jr. in the third inning Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021, in Atlanta. (Ben Margot/AP)

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Braves' Adam Duvall catches a ball hit by Milwaukee Brewers' Jackie Bradley Jr. in the third inning Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021, in Atlanta. (Ben Margot/AP)

Adam Duvall learned he was rejoining the Braves about 12:30 p.m. Thursday, a few hours before the trade deadline. He booked a flight from Miami to Atlanta at 3:15 p.m.

Sitting on the runway, Duvall received a call from Braves manager Brian Snitker. They chatted for a few minutes.

“I told him, ‘I need to hang up because I might get you in trouble,’” Snitker said. “I think they were taxiing. I just wanted to see where he was and if he felt like (he’d make it in time) to play (that night).”

“I was worried I wasn’t going to be able to make it,” said Duvall, who conquered traffic to arrive at Truist Park in time. He started in left field, ending his hectic day with an RBI single and defensive gem in which he threw out a runner at home plate.

Call it a homecoming. Duvall spent parts of the past three seasons with the Braves, including a memorable 2020 campaign in which he helped engineer one of the better offenses in franchise history.

The Braves non-tendered Duvall in the winter, however, amid uncertainty with their outfield and financial situation. He signed a one-year deal (with a mutual option) with the Marlins, who needed more pop in their lineup.

Duvall, 32, was hitting .229 with 22 homers and a .755 OPS in 90 games with Miami. His 68 RBIs ranked fifth in the National League. But with the Marlins rebuilding, they were willing to move him. The Braves saw the chance for a reunion, trading catcher Alex Jackson for Duvall to aid their ailing outfield.

Adam Duvall stats

“I’m glad to be back,” Duvall said. “This place has meant a lot to me over the years. And going out there and seeing fans in the stands again – the last time we played here we didn’t have that with COVID and everything – just seeing the energy in the stadium, it was fun.”

Duvall’s return was lauded in the clubhouse. He’s beloved by his peers, especially after showing such persistence during his Braves tenure. When Duvall first joined the franchise at the 2018 trade deadline, he had a miserable second half. He spent most of the 2019 season at Triple-A Gwinnett, appearing in only 41 games at the major-league level.

It was a frustrating stretch for Duvall. He had an All-Star appearance under his belt (2016). He had a pair of 30-homer seasons. Spending most of his age-30 season in Triple-A wasn’t part of the plan.

Duvall’s dedication paid off in 2020, when he could’ve justified not even playing. A diabetic, Duvall fell under the high-risk category as COVID-19 swept the world. He could’ve opted out and received his pay. He didn’t, instead saying he’d done his research, felt safe and wanted to help the team.

The slugger was valuable, hitting 16 homers with 33 RBIs while appearing in 57 of the team’s 60 games. He became the first player in franchise history with two three-homer games.

Duvall carried that success into this season as Miami’s top run producer. He made sure the Braves saw what they were missing, too. Duvall was a menace against his former-turned-current club, hitting 14-for-38 (.368) with five homers and 17 RBIs in 12 games against them.

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Miami Marlins' Adam Duvall (14) watches his three-run home run during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Credit: AP

Miami Marlins' Adam Duvall (14) watches his three-run home run during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Credit: AP

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Miami Marlins' Adam Duvall (14) watches his three-run home run during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

The last-place Marlins went 7-6 against the Braves.

“The real appeal is that he doesn’t have to play against us now,” general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. “We probably win a lot more of those Miami games if he wasn’t there.”

“He was killing us,” starting pitcher Touki Toussaint said. “It’s a great thing to have him on your side now.”

Duvall was 2-for-12 in his first series back with the Braves, when they lost two of three to the Brewers over the weekend. He showed his defensive ability, making several nice catches and throws in left field.

It was a reminder of Duvall’s skill set. The defense and intangibles help the team even when his offense isn’t rolling.

“Duvy is one of the best,” shortstop Dansby Swanson said. “I was sad to see him go at the beginning of this year. Getting him back is awesome.”

The Braves remade their outfield in recent weeks, trying to compensate for losing Marcell Ozuna and Ronald Acuna. They acquired Joc Pederson, Jorge Soler, Eddie Rosario and Duvall. They still have journeymen Guillermo Heredia and Abraham Almonte playing roles.

It isn’t how they drew it up in February, but the Braves are trying to make the most of a bad situation. They were excited to reacquire Duvall, whose familiarity provides comfort in a year when the Braves have been forced to rely on the unknown.

“That obviously makes things a lot easier, walking into a clubhouse with familiar faces and familiar management, and knowing your way around,” Duvall said. “That definitely helps out a lot because when you get traded in the middle of the season, it’s a whirlwind, to say the least.”

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Braves left fielder Adam Duvall gets injured on this swing during the second inning of Game 1 of the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. Duvall had to leave the game. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@

Braves left fielder Adam Duvall gets injured on this swing during the second inning of Game 1 of the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. Duvall had to leave the game. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@

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Braves left fielder Adam Duvall gets injured on this swing during the second inning of Game 1 of the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. Duvall had to leave the game. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@

Duvall holds no hard feelings for what unfolded over the winter. He wanted to stay with the Braves, an organization he said he holds dear to his heart, but he knew there are multiple factors at play.

“I’ve been around this game enough to understand that it always doesn’t work out exactly how you want it to,” he said. “There’s no hard feelings. It’s not anything personal. It’s just business.”

He took a four-month detour to south Florida, but Duvall ended up back in Atlanta after all. Now, the Braves will hope he helps inject the offense with some of the magic from a year ago. That would go a long way toward them winning the substandard NL East.