LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – With Sean Rodriguez out for most or all of the season after shoulder surgery, the Braves will look at various potential backups at several positions where Rodriguez would’ve been a preferred option for those roles.
One such position is first base, where Braves starter Freddie Freeman will play every day or almost every day as long as he’s healthy. But if he needs a day or two off or manager Brian Snitker decides that Freeman benefit from a rest, then who?
The leading options are right fielder Nick Markakis, an 11-year veteran with five career starts at first base, including one last season, and utility man Chase d’Arnaud, who said he hasn’t played first base since he was 12 years old, but is eager to give it a go. The Braves had him pick up a first baseman’s mitt and start to take some ground balls and throws at first base Saturday in the team’s first full-squad workout.
Jace Peterson is another option for first base, but the Braves already expect to use him plenty as a backup at other positions, including second base, third base and possibly center field and shortstop. Catcher Tyler Flowers also has some experience at first base, and the Braves have stayed in contact with veteran Kelly Johnson, who remains an unsigned free agent after spending parts of the past two seasons with Atlanta.
“We had Chase out there working today, wanting him to familiarize himself with that position,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “A guy like that with good hands, it shouldn’t be a problem. Or Nick did it last week when Freddie had a (day out of lineup) and did a good job.”
Freeman started 158 of the Braves’ 161 games in 2016, and started all 162 games in 2014 when he led the majors in innings played. But he played in only 118 games in an injury-plagued 2015 season and missed 15 games in each of the 2012 and 2013 seasons. So having a competent backup at first base could prove important.
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