ATLANTA – Atlanta Braves outfielder Nick Markakis opted out of the 2020 season on Monday due to increased concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.
Markakis is the second Atlanta veteran in two days to announce plans to sit out the 60-game season. He follows right-hander Félix Hernández, the former Cy Young winner with Seattle who was competing for a rotation spot before opting out on Sunday.
The 36-year-old Markakis said Monday he was uneasy about playing the season without fans and then was swayed by his telephone conversation with teammate Freddie Freeman, who has tested positive for COVID-19 and has fever and other symptoms.
“Just hearing him, the way he sounded on the phone, it was tough,” Markakis said. “It was kind of eye-opening. What everything that’s going on, not just with baseball but all over the world, it makes you open your eyes.”
Freeman, top setup man Will Smith, right-hander Touki Toussaint and infielder Pete Kozma tested positive for the coronavirus. Manager Brian Snitker said Saturday that Smith and Toussaint have no symptoms, while Kozma also has fever.
Snitker said Monday the four continue to progress through protocols. He said it wouldn't be fair to the players to provide more detailed daily updates.
Dodgers pitcher David Price, Washington infielder Ryan Zimmerman and Colorado outfielder Ian Desmond are among the other players who have opted out.
Braves first base coach Eric Young Sr. also will sit out the season.