ATLANTA – The Atlanta Braves are preparing to play without outfielder Jorge Soler in the National League Championship Series as they await clearance following his positive COVID-19 test.
The Braves trained Thursday at Truist Park without Soler, who was pulled from the lineup for Game 4 of the National League Division Series against Milwaukee on Tuesday. Dansby Swanson replaced Soler at leadoff, Guillermo Heredia moved into the lineup in center field and Cristian Pache took Soler’s place on the 26-man roster.
Playing with the tight lineup, the Braves beat the Brewers 5-4 to clinch the best-of-five division series.
Braves manager Brian Snitker would like to have Soler’s power bat on his roster for the Championship Series. Soler hit a combined .223 with 27 homers and 70 RBIs for Kansas City and Atlanta during the regular season.
“We want everyone to be there,” Snitker said when asked about Soler, adding that he “hated having to miss that” decisive game against the Brewers.
“I don’t know if this team has depended, as we’ve shown, on one player all year, honestly. The guys keep playing. Would you like to have it? Yes. If we don’t, so be it. Just go out there and win everything. that we can”.
Soler has been vaccinated, but may not be allowed to return until after best-of-seven SCLN. Snitker said he has not spoken with Soler.
“We have to approach him as if he doesn’t know if he will be here for the SCLN,” Snitker said. “This is how we have to approach it. Until it shows up and is authorized and does everything that MLB needs it to do, it looks like it’s not going to be here.”
Soler was part of the dramatic outfield makeover orchestrated by general manager Alex Anthopoulos after the Braves lost Ronald Acuna Jr. to a season-ending knee injury and Marcell Ozuna to legal issues.
Anthopoulos first acquired Joc Pederson and then added Soler, Eddie Rosario and Adam Duvall near the July 30 trade deadline.
The depth of field created by the moves becomes even more important with Soler’s status uncertain as the Braves attempt to return to the World Series for the first time since 1999.
“I think when we got Joc, the dressing room was like, ‘We’re not going to sit around and wait,'” Snitker said. “Alex is on the move. He was hitting fast and when he did that, the next wave of guys at the deadline, it showed our guys that we were serious about this. I think it did a lot of good for that room over there.”
The Braves can continue their three-man rotation of Charlie Morton, Max Fried and Ian Anderson. Morton pitched on a short layoff Tuesday, allowing two runs in 3 1/3 innings. Fried is the likely Game 1 starter in the NL Championship Series.
Huascar Ynoa and Drew Smyly, who were part of the regular-season rotation, were in the bullpen in the division series and it seems likely that they will be available again in relief. They could be used as part of a bullpen approach in Game 4.
“They’ll probably line up where we probably have a bullpen game, but you know, with that said, in this series we had two starters in our bullpen,” Snitker said. “We will be fine”.