680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – As the calendar flips to July, we can officially say that this month, there will be Major League Baseball! Players, coaches, support personnel and Front Office executives have been slowly filing into their respective home ballparks, including here in Atlanta, as the Braves get set to host “Spring Training 2.0” at Truist Park for the next few weeks. So, while things will look drastically different this time around than they typically do over six weeks in Florida, here’s a few storylines to follow as the Braves look to get themselves ready for a 60 game spring to the finish line.
WORKOUTS: For anyone that’s attended Spring Training in the past, you’re used to seeing the full squad on the field at the same time. Those days will look much different this year, as groups will be much smaller, in an effort to follow the extensive health and safety protocols set forth by the League. We’ll see much smaller groups of players around each other on the field, and off, they’ll be much more spread out around the clubhouses, cafeterias and workout facilities. Workouts will also obviously be closed to the public, so don’t make plans to head down to the ballpark expecting to catch a glimpse of your favorite players. Testing will be routine and players adhering to the guidelines will be a crucial part of this 2020 season going off without a hitch.
DH: In the event you missed it during the tense back-and-forth negotiations between the Owners and Players, there will be a universal DH in baseball in 2020. When we got to North Port back in February, one of the biggest questions was where would the at bats come for on a roster with five capable outfielders in the mix. For now, I’d think the Braves start the 2020 campaign with Marcell Ozuna as the clubs DH. That said, there are plenty of options at Brian Snitker’s disposal, including veteran outfielder Nick Markakis, three-time Gold Glover Ender Inciarte, and young slugger Austin Riley. This team has put a ton of value on defense over the years, so I’d imagine they’d feel more comfortable with Markakis in left and Ozuna as the DH. But things could certainly change, and the depth the Braves have will prove to be a major strength over the coming months.
ROTATION: Newcomer Cole Hamels missed all of Spring Training as he was dealing with a sore left shoulder. But the extra four month window between the end of March and end of July has given him plenty of time to get healthy, and have the ability to make a big impact in the Atlanta rotation. I asked Alex Anthopoulos on a conference call late last week about Hamels’ health and he told me Cole was scheduled to throw a bullpen on Friday and is expected to be ready to start the season on July 24th. Once again, depth will be a strength as starters will likely only go a few innings in their first few regular season starts, so the club will have the option to piggyback starters in an effort to avoid taxing the bullpen early on.
So, there’s a quick glimpse at what’s to come over the next three weeks. One thing we do know, Major League Baseball will happen this month. And while some may still have trouble coming to grips with a 60 game season…as we’ve said quite a bit on the air…60 games is a whole heck of a lot better than zero.
Kevin McAlpin has covered the Braves since 2012 for @680TheFan and the @BravesRadioNet