Puig tests positive for coronavirus; Freeman cleared to return

The Braves received good news and bad news Friday.

Outfielder Yasiel Puig tested positive for the coronavirus, he revealed Friday, saying that he’s asymptomatic. Because of the positive test, the Braves won’t be signing Puig. The potential one-year deal was pending his test result.

While Puig is out, two other Braves are back in. First baseman Freddie Freeman and right-hander Touki Toussaint were cleared to return to team facilities, the team announced.

Freeman and Toussaint were among the four Braves to test positive for COVID-19 before first workouts July 3. Freeman exhibited symptoms, including a fever, body chills and headache, while Toussaint was asymptomatic.

It’s a welcome development for the Braves and their players. Freeman could be ready after all for opening day July 24 against the Mets. Time had been running out for Freeman to realistically be ready. Now, the Braves should have their leader and lineup centerpiece available soon, if not by the first game.

The Braves posted several videos of Freeman working out at Truist Park on Friday, which was an off day for the team. “This is wonderful,” a grinning Freeman said while walking out of the dugout.

Toussaint, meanwhile, eventually will factor into their pitching plans. The Braves planned to piggyback pitchers early, and even if Toussaint isn’t ready at the season’s beginning, he should be able to help the club in the near future. The Braves can use Toussaint as a starter or reliever.

The Braves have two other players still going through protocols because of positive tests: left-hander Will Smith and utilityman Pete Kozma. The Braves also have infielder/outfielder Peter O’Brien on the injured list because of exposure to someone who had COVID-19, but O’Brien has not tested positive himself.

As for Puig, the Braves could revisit signing him after he’s cleared (which requires two negative tests). Teams aren’t likely to sign a free agent who tests positive because of the uncertain recovery timeline. Whenever Puig is available, the shortened season will be underway. Opening day is July 23-24.

Whether it’s Puig or another player, the Braves will continue to seek help against right-handed pitching. Puig would’ve replaced veteran Nick Markakis, whose decision not to play, along with Freeman’s unclear status, dented the Braves’ lineup against right-handers. Getting Freeman back helps that cause: He’s hit .304/.393/.534 against righties in his career.

Puig, 29, shared the following via Twitter: “I am sorry to share with my fans, friends, and family who follow me and who really support me, that I have just been notified that I have tested positive for COVID-19. Although I tested positive, I am asymptomatic and I feel absolutely fine. I will be quarantined until I receive two negative test results, which I hope will arrive shortly.

“I am sad that this has happened, but I believe that everything is in God’s timing and that my return to MLB will happen in His perfect plan and timing for me. When I return to the field, I will do so knowing that I will have one less hurdle to overcome.

“I would have never believed looking in the mirror that I had COVID-19. I urge everyone to take this pandemic seriously, this can happen to anyone, even the healthiest athlete. Wear a mask, social distance, and follow your local protocols. Please take care of yourselves. I will see you all very soon when I return to play ball.”