Another Day, Another Opt-Out: Braves’ Nick Markakis Opts-out after a talk with Freddie Freeman

Atlanta Braves outfielder Nick Markakis has opted out of the 2020 MLB season.

The 36-year-old veteran said he was uneasy about playing the season, but his conversation with teammate Freddie Freeman swayed his decision.

Freddie Freeman, who has tested positive for the coronavirus with symptoms, explained to Markakis how being infected has been. Freeman has been battling high fevers, body aches and other symptoms.

“Just hearing him, the way he sounded on the phone, it was tough,” Markakis said. “It was kind of eye-opening. With everything that’s going on, not just with baseball but all over the world, it makes you open your eyes.”

Markakis became the second Braves player to opt out. Over the weekend, pitcher Felix Hernandez said he wouldn’t play this year. He also joins a list of some pretty good players: Dodgers pitcher David Price, Nationals infielder Ryan Zimmerman and Rockies outfielder Ian Desmond are among the other players who have opted out.

The Braves will miss Markakis on the field. He is coming off an all-star season which he hit .285 with nine homers and 62 RBIs.

Manager Brian Snitker said he respected the decision by Markakis, who he said is “an ultimate pro.” Snitker said losing the respected veteran was a blow to the team’s hopes for winning a third straight NL East title. “We’ll miss him,” Snitker said.

“He’s one of our backbones of our club. I know he’s been thinking long and hard about it. … When you lose a guy of that stature and what he brings and the player he is, it doesn’t help you, that’s for sure.”- Snitker

Snitker plans to rely heavily on his youth outfielders this season. Expect to see Marcell Ozuna and Ronald Acuna Jr play in every game this season. Ender Inciarte and Adam Duvall are expected to get the heavy load of playing time in Markakis absence.

Snitker, 64, acknowledged he also has concerns about his health during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I feel great right here. I think I’ll be fine these three weeks. The traveling worries me more than anything, I think. … The fact we’ve had some positive tests makes you realize this is real. This virus is real, and it’s nothing to mess with.”

The Braves camp has been hit harder than most. Freeman, top setup man Will Smith, right-hander Touki Toussaint and infielder Pete Kozma have all tested positive for the virus, all to different extents of symptoms.

As for Markakis, he has the “overwhelming support” of his family and teammates in his decision to miss a season.

“I’m at the point in my career where I’m not chasing the money,” he said. “I’m not chasing any of that. … This game is about having fun, and having to go out there and play in an environment without fans, it’s not baseball to me.”

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