680 THE FAN ATLANTA – Fourth of July Saturday was a busy one when it came to Braves news. First and foremost, the club announced that four players had tested positive for COVID-19 (Freddie Freeman, Will Smith, Touki Toussaint and Pete Kozma). Shortly thereafter, Brian Snitker announced that first base coach Eric Young, who is responsible for working with the outfielders and assisting with the clubs base running, would be opting out of the 2020 season due to the virus. Then, late last night, veteran starter Felix Hernandez, who was in camp on a Minor League deal, decided he would also sit out the 2020 campaign.
Hernandez had a strong spring and up until camp shut down in mid-March, was right in the running for one of the (at the time) two vacant spots in the Atlanta rotation. In four Grapefruit League outings, Hernandez posted a 1.98 ERA with 14 strikeouts in 13.2 innings of work. The 2010 Cy Young Award winner in the AL’s time in Seattle came to a rough ending the last two years, but the 34 year old right hander felt like he still had plenty left in the tank when he reported to North Port in February. Hernandez’s decision to sit out the season opens the door for Sean Newcomb, who also had a tremendous Spring Training. Newcomb, the 27 year old southpaw was mostly utilized as a reliever last season, but has made his desire to return to the rotation well known over the last calendar year. What he showed in Grapefruit League play certainly backed up his desire, as he allowed just two earned runs in nine innings of work, spanning three spring outings. Yesterday, Newcomb and Mike Foltynewicz both tossed a couple innings of simulated action, as the club attempts to use these early days of July as a way to ramp them up between now and Opening Day.
Kevin McAlpin has covered the Braves since 2012 for @680TheFan and the @BravesRadioNet