Braves Flowers, d’Arnaud out with coronavirus symptoms

Credit: Atlanta Braves

The Braves were without both catchers when they opened the regular season in Queens.

Travis d’Arnaud and Tyler Flowers exhibited COVID-19 symptoms and stayed in Atlanta. Neither had tested positive as of Friday morning, manager Brian Snitker said.

“Both of them have tested negative, they did the POC (testing), saliva, but they are symptomatic and not feeling great,” Snitker said. “So we’re going to err on the side of caution. They’re back in Atlanta.”

Flowers and d’Arnaud were placed on the COVID-19 injured list, which doesn’t have a minimum requirement. D’Arnaud began showing symptoms Wednesday, when he didn’t play in the Braves’ exhibition game.

Neither player felt well Thursday, Snitker said, so they didn’t travel with the team. The Braves hadn’t yet ruled them out, however, as shown by their inclusions on the initial 30-man roster, which was announced Thursday afternoon.

“We were hoping they’d wake up today feeling great, but that wasn’t the case,” Snitker said. “Again, they’ve tested negative, but they are having symptoms. We’re erring on the side of caution. It’ll be a day-to-day thing with them.”

Flowers nor d’Arnaud had been exposed to anyone with COVID, to Snitker’s knowledge. He hasn’t spoken with either player yet.

There’s no specific criteria for when either player can return as long as they continue to test negative.

“It’s pretty much just feeling better,” Snitker said. “I don’t know that it’s not just a bad cold or something you would get. But in these times, they red flag those and you’re cautious. ... And you don’t know, because we’ve had guys test negative and the next day they’re positive.”

The Braves recalled Alex Jackson and William Contreras to fill the catching voids. Jackson started opening day, hitting ninth in the lineup, and is expected to get the majority of work in the regulars’ absence, Snitker said.

Jackson and Contreras have a combined four games of MLB experience.

“I’ve felt really good, even last year when Alex came up,” Snitker said. “I think he does a really good job defensively. His swing, they did some work this summer camp and he’s hit a couple homers. The swing looks really good too. He should be feeling really good about himself, even though you are facing Jacob deGrom (on opening day). I really like Alex behind the plate. His throwing, game-calling. (Catching coach) Sal (Fasano) is in his ear. They’ve done a lot of work in the past couple years. He’s a really solid catcher.”

Contreras will make his MLB debut whenever he enters a game. He was among the Braves’ standouts during summer camp. Contreras is rated the system’s No. 8 prospect, according to Baseball America, standing out for his athletic ability.

“I’m confident; I’ve thrown to Alex a bunch in the minor leagues, and I’ve been able to throw to William enough in spring training and summer camp,” said Max Fried, who will start Saturday. “Both are hard-working. I know Sal is going to make sure they’re prepared and ready to go.”

The Braves were set to open the 60-game season against the Mets at Citi Field at 4 p.m. Friday.

Four Braves tested positive for the virus before summer camp began July 3: first baseman Freddie Freeman, pitchers Touki Toussaint and Will Smith and utilityman Pete Kozma. Freeman exhibited symptoms, including a fever, body chills and headache, while Toussaint was asymptomatic. Smith, who’s asymptomatic, is beginning the season on the IL.

Now they Braves are dealing with losing both their veteran backstops for an unknown amount of time.

“I wasn’t shocked to hear it because we’d heard the last couple days that they had some symptoms,” Freeman said. “Unfortunately, I think this is what’s going to happen. There’s no thing like the common cold anymore. If you have symptoms, you’re going to miss three to four days. Before we got this thing going, when I came back, we had some meetings to go over protocols, travel, things like that. I spoke to position players and pitchers to just be truthful about how you feel.

“If I hadn’t said anything, I would’ve infected this whole team. I applaud (the catchers) for being truthful. It’s tough when you lose your two catchers, but nobody is going to feel sorry for us. The Nationals didn’t have Juan Soto last night. It’s going to be happening throughout the course of this year. It sounds like they’re doing OK, and I’ve heard they’ve tested negative, but you never know. You can test positive a couple days after. Hopefully they’re OK and feeling better and hopefully sooner or later we can get them back.”

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