Potentially exposed to COVID-19, Markakis out, Pache called up

Braves outfielder Nick Markakis rips a double to score Marcell Ozuna with Washington Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki looking on Monday, August 17, 2020 in Atlanta.    Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com
Braves outfielder Nick Markakis rips a double to score Marcell Ozuna with Washington Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki looking on Monday, August 17, 2020 in Atlanta. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

Braves outfielder Nick Markakis, who opted out at the beginning of this season because of coronavirus concerns only to return to the team July 29, was placed on the injured list Tuesday night for potential exposure to the disease.

In making the announcement, the Braves said he tested negative for COVID-19. But out of an abundance of caution he would be distanced from the team for an as yet undetermined amount of time.

Taking his place on the roster was outfielder Cristian Pache, the Braves’ top-ranked prospect according to MLB.com. He was assigned No. 14 and made it to Truist Park less than an hour before the start of Tuesday’s game against Washington. He did not appear in the game.

Markakis, 36, came back to the Braves on a tear. Through 11 games, he was hitting .353 with an OPS of 1.039. His two doubles Monday night pushed his career total to 505, one away from Babe Ruth, who is No. 58 on the all-time list.

The Braves discovered this development after already writing Markakis into Tuesday’s lineup card.

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There was no immediate indication as to how long the Braves will miss Markakis. “It’s going to be day to day right now,” manager Brian Snitker said following Tuesday’s game. “I don’t really have an understanding of (a timetable). I know he was exposed and out of caution he’s not here. It will be a day to day thing.” Snitker said Markakis was exposed away from the team.

Meanwhile, Pache has been an intriguing prospect almost since the moment of his signing out of the Dominican Republic in 2015, at the age of 16. He split time between Double-A and Triple-A last season, and combined, hit .277 with 12 home runs. He already is reputed to be one of the Braves’ best defensive players, at any level.

And he may not be on the bench much longer.

“I may play him tomorrow, go ahead get him out there,” Snitker said Tuesday night. “A young guy coming up, he can defend and we have seen that he’s a threat. I’m thinking seriously about running him out there and letting him play.”

Count Tuesday’s Braves starter Josh Tomlin as among those especially anxious to watch Pache, the five-tool prospect, run down fly balls.

“He’s pretty special out there, whether he’s playing center, right, left,” Tomlin said. “The dude can flat-out go get it, it’s impressive to watch. You could see in spring training, he’s a special talent in the outfield, there’s no doubt about it. It’s like he’s moving before the ball’s even hit, that’s the kind of reads and jumps he can get on baseballs.”

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