Jorge Soler’s status uncertain after positive COVID-19 test

10/9/21 - Milwaukee, WI - Atlanta Braves right fielder Jorge Soler (12) slides into second for a double in the third inning of the  Major League Baseball playoff game between the Atlanta Braves and the Milwaukee Brewers.  Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

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10/9/21 - Milwaukee, WI - Atlanta Braves right fielder Jorge Soler (12) slides into second for a double in the third inning of the Major League Baseball playoff game between the Atlanta Braves and the Milwaukee Brewers. Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton / curtis.compton@ajc.com

Before the Braves’ series-clinching win over the Brewers on Tuesday, they learned their leadoff man Jorge Soler tested positive for COVID-19. Soler was removed from the National League Division Series roster and replaced with youngster Cristian Pache.

“I’m sitting in my office and the medical staff came in couple hours before the game and they said he tested positive,” manager Brian Snitker said. “I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ So it’s like, we need a new lineup. You kind of just keep going. I mean, I told (general manager) Alex (Anthopoulos), I was like these guys won’t let it affect them, I’m going to tell you that. Once the game starts they’ll be on point and out there to win the game.”

The Braves defeated the Brewers 5-4 in Game 4, with first baseman Freddie Freeman’s homer in the eighth inning the difference. They won the series, 3-1, advancing to their second consecutive NL Championship Series.

“After the fact, I hate that (Soler) wasn’t in there to celebrate with us because he’s been such a big part of this,” Snitker said. “I hated it for him. Because we’ve been kind of free all year. We haven’t had anything. And then all of a sudden right then, I’m thinking ‘Oh my God.’ So we just kind of did what we had to do to clear everything, get Pache up here. Things were spinning pretty fast at the time.”

Soler’s status for the NLCS, which begins for the Braves on Saturday either in San Francisco or at Truist Park against the Dodgers, is uncertain. Snitker wasn’t sure how long Soler would be out, but it could be a 10-day absence.

Acquired from Kansas City at the trade deadline, Soler was a crucial part of the Braves’ remade outfield. While he was 1-for-11 in the NLDS, coaches and teammates laud his at-bats and the threat of his power, which eventually led Snitker to shift him into the leadoff spot.

Shortstop Dansby Swanson was moved into leadoff, doubling in the first inning. Joc Pederson handled center field in Soler’s absence, with Guillermo Heredia in center and Adam Duvall in left. Eddie Rosario had started instead of Pederson in the other three NLDS games.

Soler hit 14 homers with 33 RBIs in 55 games during his time with the Braves in the regular season.

“For a second, you’re just like, what else can happen to the Atlanta Braves this year,” Freeman said of learning Soler tested positive. “Seemed like everything that could go wrong had gone wrong, but we kept coming back, coming back. I think it was just so crazy and chaotic trying to figure out what was going on, him getting more tests done. We found out that he had to get more tests around (batting practice). When he came back in, next thing you know he’s gone. And 10 days and stuff like that. And we’re like, who is coming?

“You don’t have time to dwell on (the reality that you) just lost your leadoff hitter two hours before the first pitch. Dansby came in, made us all calm down when he hit the leadoff double. It’s tough. Jorge has been unbelievable for us in the last month or two. So it’s going to be tough to carry it over. But if we can keep going, hopefully he can get better and come back sooner rather than later.”