By Mark Bowman, MLB Network
Before setting their 30-man Opening Day roster on Thursday afternoon, the Braves placed Cole Hamels on the 45-day injured list. Hamels missed all of Spring Training with left shoulder inflammation and battled left triceps tendinitis most of Summer Camp. He will be eligible to be activated on Sept. 6.
The Braves also outrighted Yonder Alonso, who had been added to the 40-man roster on Saturday. Alonso was no longer a fit once Atlanta signed Matt Adams on Monday to serve as its primary designated hitter.
Here’s a breakdown of the Braves’ 2020 Opening Day roster:
Catcher: Travis d’Arnaud and Tyler Flowers
If the scrimmage and intrasquad games were a sign of things to come, d’Arnaud seems ready to pick up where he left off when he hit 16 homers and produced a .782 OPS in 365 plate appearances for the Rays. Flowers may take a slightly lesser role than he had each of the past four seasons with the Braves. But with 60 games in 66 days, expect to see both catchers utilized on a regular basis.
First base: Freddie Freeman and Matt Adams
Freeman will be starting the season opener exactly one week after learning he received the two negative COVID-19 tests at least 24 hours apart he needed to join the team. The four-time All-Star missed the first two weeks of Summer Camp, but he seemed to quickly regain his timing. Freeman homered and hit an opposite-field double off Sean Newcomb in an intrasquad game on Tuesday. Adams was signed on Tuesday to serve as the team’s primary designated hitter.
Second base: Ozzie Albies
This could be a big year for Albies, who consistently damaged Braves pitchers during intrasquad games. He stands with Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray as the only switch-hitters to bat .275 with 50-plus homers and a .800 OPS through his age-22 season.
Shortstop: Dansby Swanson and Adeiny Hechavarría
Swanson spent the past couple weeks showing some of the opposite-field power he consistently displayed before his left heel ailment sidelined and hampered him over last season’s final couple months. He’ll be making his fourth straight Opening Day start.
Third base: Austin Riley and Johan Camargo
Manager Brian Snitker has not revealed how he plans to utilize these two third basemen. Camargo may be limited during the first couple games because he missed most of the past week resting a slight right hamstring strain. But he could reclaim the starting role he had in 2018 if Riley does not show the great power he displayed before floundering over the final months of the ’19 season.
Outfielders: Marcell Ozuna, Ender Inciarte, Ronald Acuña Jr. and Adam Duvall
Acuña’s tremendous arm may prove to be even more valuable as he’ll be playing right field on a regular basis this year. But he could still transition to center field when Inciarte sits against left-handed starters. Ozuna’s defense is a concern, but with Adams now available to serve as the designated hitter, Ozuna is expected to be in left field on a regular basis.
Utility: Adeiny Hechavarría and Charlie Culberson
Hechavarría still remains one of the game’s top defensive infielders, and his bat actually showed some life after he joined Atlanta late last year. Culberson was a key asset when the Braves won the 2018 National League East title, and he still remained one of the team’s most respected players when his production dropped last year.
Starting pitchers: Mike Soroka, Max Fried, Mike Foltynewicz, Sean Newcomb, Kyle Wright and Jhoulys Chacín
Soroka will attempt to maintain his status as a Cy Young Award candidate and Foltynewicz will look to regain the consistency he showed during his career-best 2018 season. Fried has the potential to prove himself as a front-line starter this year, and Newcomb will try to show he deserves to be back in the rotation. Wright and Chacín are among those capable of filling the fifth spot until Hamels proves to be healthy enough to join the rotation.
Relievers: Mark Melancon, Shane Greene, Darren O’Day, Chris Martin, Luke Jackson, A.J. Minter, Josh Tomlin, Touki Toussaint, Tyler Matzek and Grant Dayton
The big absence is All-Star Will Smith, who has not been cleared to return since testing positive for COVID-19 at the start of Summer Camp. Melancon will be the closer. Greene, O’Day and Martin will serve as the other primary high-leverage relievers. This a deep bullpen that counts former closers Jackson and Minter as middle-inning options. Tomlin, Toussaint and either Wright or Chacín will all be available to work multiple innings as the team plans to piggyback some starters during the season’s first couple weeks. Minter will be the primary left-handed option. Matzek returns to the Majors for the first time since his promising career with the Rockies was derailed by the “yips” in 2015.