Braves’ Adam Duvall plans to play despite higher risk as diabetic

Adam Duvall of the Braves.
Adam Duvall of the Braves.

Five days before camp reopened July 3, Braves manager Brian Snitker had a long conversation with outfielder Adam Duvall, who falls under the high-risk category as a diabetic. Duvall could’ve opted out of the 2020 season and received his pay and service time.

Instead, he’s all systems go, hoping he’ll play an important role throughout the 60-game season.

“I did some research on my own,” Duvall said. “I did talk to a couple doctors. I felt that I was in a good position as long as I did what I needed to do as far as staying safe, trying to keep my distance, washing my hands, everything they’ve talked about. I wanted to play this year. I was anxious to play. As far as right now, I don’t feel like I’m in any type of danger.

“My mindset has been ‘go’ the whole time. I’ve tried to stay as ready as I could as far as being in game shape and ready to go. I was planning on playing the whole time. I enjoy playing the game. For me, it was a little off not being able to play. The fans are hungry for baseball. I think America needs something to look forward to and get excited about. I feel like we’re in a good spot.”

Duvall, 31, was diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes in 2012. During the pandemic, he’s had to be even more careful with his condition.

“It’s more important than ever to keep your blood sugar stable and within a certain range,” he said. “The more you’re out of it, the more complications you could have if you were to contract COVID. Right now it’s more important than ever to stay on top of it, watch the numbers and do your best to manage it. That’s what I’ve always done.

“I take a lot of pride in taking care of my diabetes and putting it first. I know that down the road I can have complications if I don’t watch out for it now. That’s always been important to me.”

Explore>> Braves’ Cole Hamels has triceps tendinitis

Duvall stuck to his decision even after seeing four Braves test positive for COVID-19. He said that “put it more into perspective as far as knowing that things can go wrong.”

When Snitker spoke with Duvall, he just wanted to make sure his player felt safe going through with playing. He and the team wanted to accommodate Duvall in any way he needed.

“He is probably more in tune with his body than anybody in this clubhouse because of his disease,” Snitker said. “(What we told him is) we’ll do whatever we can, whatever you feel we need to, to make you feel safe. Whether it’s isolating you at your locker, things like that. He felt good about everything and confident. Hats off to him. It’s good to have a guy like that on our 30 (roster).”

This season could be Duvall’s most impactful as a Brave. He has played sparingly since joining the team at the 2018 trade deadline. Duvall has hit .225/.278/.439 with 10 homers and 19 RBIs in 74 games with the Braves.

He spent much of last season in Triple-A, where he hit 29 homers and knocked in 84 runs across 94 games. The Braves kept Duvall in Triple-A because they simply didn’t have a spot for him and felt he needed consistent playing time. When Nick Markakis broke his wrist in late July, Duvall was promoted.

The Louisville native improved in his second stint with the team, albeit in only 41 regular-season games. Where he wound up shining was the NLDS: Duvall launched a two-run homer in Game 2 and provided the go-ahead ninth-inning RBI in Game 3, but the Braves ultimately lost to the Cardinals in five games.

“I think I’ve grown as a person and player a lot over the last year,” Duvall said. “I’m very comfortable with what I’ve learned over the past year about my swing, how it works. I’m super excited to take that into a season. Last year was a good year for me as far as putting a whole year together. I’m excited to see what I can do this year.”

When Markakis decided against playing this season, his absence once again paved the way to a greater role for Duvall. Despite speculation the Braves could non-tender Duvall in each of the past two offseasons, the Braves insisted they believed in him and felt he was valuable depth. If the NLDS didn’t already prove them right, perhaps 2020 will.

Duvall can play the outfield, first base and serve as a designated hitter in the 60-game season. The team’s depth is already being tested, with Markakis out and Freddie Freeman potentially missing the start of the season after testing positive for the coronavirus.

Whatever position he plays, Duvall is best used against left-handed pitching, against which he earned a 1.130 OPS last season (39 at-bats). As a plus defender, it’d be logical for the team to use Duvall in the outfield and plug Marcell Ozuna at designated hitter.

“He has some versatility,” Snitker said. “You can never have enough because, as we’ve already experienced, it can go in a hurry. As we’ve seen also, it’s tough to get these guys back. It’s hard to get them back after positive tests. The depth is going to be crucial. Taking care of yourself and not bringing anything in here is huge too. Taking responsibility for yourself and your teammates. All that is going to play a role in this thing.”

Duvall added: “There are guidelines we all have to follow. We’re all leaning on each other. It’s a collective thing. Everybody has to buy in and do the right thing. As a team, we’re going to try to stay as healthy as we can. That’s the goal at the end of this. Stay as healthy as we can and get through this in one unit.”

A six-year veteran, Duvall earned his only All-Star appearance in 2016 with the Reds. He hit 33 homers with 103 RBIs that season, his first of two consecutive seasons exceeding 30 homers. He’s a three-time gold glove finalist.