Braves have options at first base if Freddie Freeman misses games

Braves Austin Riley (left) and Johan Camargo are competing for the third base spot in spring training.

Credit: Curtis Compton

Combined ShapeCaption
Braves Austin Riley (left) and Johan Camargo are competing for the third base spot in spring training.

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

The Braves haven’t begun to plan for first baseman Freddie Freeman’s possible absence on opening day, but they know the candidates to replace him.

Freeman was one of four Braves who tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday. He's had a fever, body chills and other symptoms, according to his wife, Chelsea. First and foremost, the Braves said they prioritize their players' health and want Freeman, Touki Toussaint, Will Smith and Pete Kozma to recover as quickly as possible.

An unfortunate and unavoidable element of the 2020 season is that positive tests will have on-field implications. Freeman, who rarely takes a day off from manning first base, might not be cleared by July 24, when the Braves will open their 60-game regular season. As such, the Braves soon will have to consider his replacement.

Speaking with the media Sunday morning, manager Brian Snitker mentioned three players who could handle first base: Austin Riley, Adam Duvall and Johan Camargo.

“I think (Duvall) would be one,” Snitker said. “Austin. Camargo has played there a little bit. Austin looked really good there when we played him there in spring training. He’d be fine there defensively, no doubt in my mind. Adam has played a few games there. We started getting him some ground balls in spring training. I’m sure we’ll do that again these next couple weeks.”

Riley and Camargo were competing for the third-base job in spring training. Camargo’s ability to play around the field could prove especially valuable this season, which will be shrouded in day-to-day uncertainty. Riley can play third base, first base and left field. Still, the pair has combined to play seven regular-season games at first base.

The Braves’ candidates do extend beyond the trio Snitker mentioned. Nick Markakis has played first base in only six games, most recently in 2016, but he could be another possible fill-in. The Braves could platoon Markakis and Duvall at first – as they planned to do in the outfield before signing Marcell Ozuna – if they so choose.

There are less likelier options should the Braves find themselves in a pinch. Adeiny Hechavarria hasn’t played first base in a game, but he was working out at the position late last season. The Braves have veterans Charlie Culberson, Yonder Alonso, Peter O’Brien and Yangervis Solarte in their player pool, though none are on the 40-man roster.

Ultimately, should Freeman miss time, the Braves’ easiest solution seems to be plugging in one of the players Snitker referenced.

“Our preparations right now are just to get (the players) back in shape,” Snitker said. “They’ve been off for three months. We’re putting them through the drills and getting everybody in shape. Austin played some first base in the spring. He’s more than capable of doing that. As we see how this thing plays out, we’ll probably work him out there, too.”

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