Braves roster and schedule
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Atlanta Braves roster and schedule for 2020 season

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The 2020 season is now a 60-game dash, starting on July 23 and ending, hopefully, with a full-size postseason in October. Between now and the start of the season, we’ll be giving quick capsule previews of each team, reminding you of where things stood back in Spring Training and where they stand now as we embark on what is sure to be the strangest season in baseball history. First up: The Atlanta Braves roster and schedule:

BRAVES ROSTER (projected)

When the season opens on July 23-24, teams can sport rosters of up to 30 players, with a minimum of 25. Two weeks later, rosters must be reduced to 28 and then, two weeks after that, they must be reduced to 26. Teams will be permitted to add a 27th player for doubleheaders.

In light of that, there is a great degree of latitude for which specific players will break summer camp. For now, though, here are who we expect to be on the Braves roster to begin the season:

Catchers:

Travis d'Arnaud
Tyler Flowers

Infielders:

Freddie Freeman
Ozzie Albies
Dansby Swanson
Austin Riley
Adeiny Hechavarría
Johan Camargo

Outfielders:

Ronald Acuña Jr.
Ender Inciarte
Marcell Ozuna
Yasiel Puig
Adam Duvall

Starters:

Mike Soroka
Max Fried
Mike Foltynewicz
Cole Hamels
Sean Newcomb
Josh Tomlin

Relievers:

Mark Melancon
Shane Greene
Will Smith
Luke Jackson
Chris Martin
Darren O'Day
Grant Dayton
Touki Toussaint


BREAKDOWN:

With the exception of outfielder Nick Markakis and third baseman Josh Donaldson, the Braves are bringing back largely the same roster that won 97 games and the NL East title last season. Markakis elected not to play while Donaldson signed with the Twins in free agency. First baseman Freddie Freeman is also a question mark as he battled COVID-19 and it was a harrowing experience, enough to influence Markakis to sit out the season. The Braves replaced Markakis on Tuesday by signing free agent outfielder Yasiel Puig.

The Braves’ offense will be reliant first and foremost on center fielder Ronald Acuña Jr. He followed up his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2018 by smacking 41 homers and stealing an NL-best 37 bases last season, finishing fifth in NL MVP Award balloting. He is only 22 years old but has already proven himself capable of carrying a team on his back. And that might be what the Braves need him to do. Ozzie Albies will be second in command, looking to build on his 2019 in which he racked up 43 doubles, 24 homers, and 15 stolen bases. The Braves would love it if Dansby Swanson or Austin Riley break out or Puig has a 2014-esque season as well.

Pitching-wise, the Braves are solid. Mike Soroka was quietly dominant last season, going 13-4 with a 2.68 ERA and 142 punchouts over 174 2/3 innings, finishing second in Rookie of the Year Award voting. The 22-year-old will lead a staff that includes veterans Mike Foltynewicz and Cole Hamels, as well as Max Fried and an as yet unknown No. 5, currently between Sean Newcomb and Josh Tomlin. Hamels is currently battling a triceps injury, so his status is up in the air.

The back of the Braves’ bullpen may be the team’s biggest weakness. It lacks the star power that other contenders have, but the Braves hope their experience will more than make up for it. Melancon is entering his 12th season and will get the first crack at regular save opportunities. He’ll be backed by Shane Greene and Will Smith while Chris Martin, Luke Jackson, Darren O’Day, and Grant Dayton help bridge the gap to the eighth and ninth innings.

In such a short season where variance will have much more of an impact than usual, it’s tough to definitively declare favorites. That’s even more true in the highly competitive NL East, where the defending champion Nationals, Mets, and Phillies are all expected to be competitive. Even the Marlins could surprise some people. What can be definitively said is this: the 2020 season will be interesting.

BRAVES SCHEDULE:

Every team will play 60 games. Teams will be playing 40 games against their own division rivals and 20 interleague games against the corresponding geographic division from the other league. Six of the 20 interleague games will be “rivalry” games.

  • July 24-26: @ Mets
  • July 27-28: @ Rays
  • July 29-30: vs. Rays
  • July 31-August 3: vs. Mets
  • August 4-6: vs. Blue Jays
  • August 7-10: @ Phillies
  • August 11-12: @ Yankees
  • August 14-16: @ Marlins
  • August 17-19: vs. Nationals
  • August 21-23: vs. Phillies
  • August 25-26: vs. Yankees
  • August 28-30: @ Phillies
  • August 31-September 2: @ Red Sox
  • September 4-6: vs. Nationals
  • September 7-9: vs. Marlins
  • September 10-13: @ Nationals
  • September 14-16: @ Orioles
  • September 18-20: @ Mets
  • September 21-24: vs. Marlins
  • September 25-27: vs. Red Sox

The entire Braves schedule can be seen here.

Angels’ Andrelton Simmons opts out of final 5 games

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Shortstop Andrelton Simmons has opted out of the remainder of the Los Angeles Angels’ season.

The Angels announced the four-time Gold Glove-winning shortstop’s decision Tuesday before they faced the San Diego Padres.

Los Angeles (24-31) is still technically in the playoff race with five games left in the regular season, and Simmons clearly caught the Angels by surprise, although the club said it respected his decision.

The 31-year-old Simmons, who can be a free agent this winter, is finishing his fifth year with the Angels. After spraining his ankle in late July and missing 22 games, Simmons is currently batting .297 with 10 RBIs while playing his usual stellar defense, albeit with four errors in 30 games.

“At this time, I feel this is the best decision for me and my family,” Simmons said in a statement. “We don’t know what the future holds, but we would like to sincerely thank the Angels organization and Angels fans for welcoming and making us feel at home.”

Manager Joe Maddon acknowledged he was caught by surprise when general manager Billy Eppler told him about Simmons’ decision Monday night after Simmons went 1 for 4 with an RBI single in the Angels’ home finale. Maddon texted Simmons, but hadn’t heard back by Tuesday afternoon.

“I’ve really enjoyed this guy a lot,” Maddon said. “I’m a big fan. This guy is a good baseball player, and I’ve enjoyed the conversations, too. It’s just unfortunate. He’s really a big part of what we’re doing right now.”

Simmons is a favorite of Angels fans for his defensive wizardry, and owner Arte Moreno has described Simmons as perhaps his favorite player to watch on the roster. Simmons has batted .281 with 36 homers and 281 RBIs during his five seasons with Los Angeles, and he won the Gold Glove in 2017 and 2018.

“He’s a thinking kind of a player, and I’ve enjoyed him a lot,” Maddon said.

Simmons will be a free agent this winter, and the Angels have an obvious replacement for him in David Fletcher, who has a .374 on-base percentage while regularly hitting leadoff for the Angels during his breakout major league season. Fletcher has been playing second base since Simmons’ return from injury.

But the Angels haven’t publicly closed the door on Simmons’ return, and he could be given a qualifying offer. Maddon has repeatedly said he would like Simmons to return in 2021 if possible.

The Angels haven’t had a winning season during Simmons’ five years in Anaheim, although Simmons said last week he wasn’t discouraged by the lack of team success. Simmons played his first four major league seasons in Atlanta, and he hasn’t appeared in the postseason since 2013.

Simmons also said he hadn’t been involved in any recent contract talks with the Angels, but he had enjoyed playing for the club. When asked if he wanted to return to the Halos, Simmons said he would have to “plead the fifth.”