Freddie Freeman, three others test positive for COVID-19 virus

Bill Shanks

The national emergency has hit the Atlanta Braves, as manager Brian Snitker announced Saturday that four players have tested positive for COVID-19.

First baseman and team star Freddie Freeman, new reliever Will Smith, young pitcher Touki Toussaint and infielder Pete Kozman are the four who will now have to stay away from the club.

The Braves and Snitker received permission from all four players to announce the news. Smith and Toussaint are asymptomatic right now, while Freeman and Kozma are dealing with a fever and other symptoms. 

Freeman started feeling ill Thursday. After testing negative in the initial testing earlier in the week, Freeman took another test and it came back positive. 

Freeman's wife Chelsea posted on Instagram Saturday afternoon that her husband "has body aches, headaches, chills and a high fever. He is someone who literally never gets sick and this virus hit him like a ton of bricks."

She continued, "We've been really strict for the last four months. Haven't gone to the grocery story, haven't gone out to dinner once, haven't seen our friends and only allowed family at our house and we still got it."

Snitker said in his zoom conference the players agreed to announce the positive tests in part to let fans know "this virus is real."

Along with being concerned about Freeman's well-being, fans are obviously going to wonder if he can be well and ready in time for the July 24 scheduled opening day.

Freeman will not be permitted to return to the team until he goes 72 hours with no symptoms and then he must test negative twice within a span of 24 hours.

If the Braves have to plan on possibly being without Freeman at the start of the season, they could possibly allow Austin Riley to take ground balls at first base. Riley played first base in six games last season, with six starts at the position.

Charlie Culberson and Francisco Cervelli got the other two non-Freeman starts at first base, while Johan Camargo also played in one game at the position.

Smith was Atlanta's big free agent acquisition over the winter. He is scheduled to join Mark Melancon, Chris Martin, Shane Greene and Luke Jackson in the Braves best bullpen on paper heading into a season perhaps ever in the franchise's history.

Smith was great in spring training, as he allowed just one earned run, a solo home run, on four hits in 5.1 innings of work, with three walks and six strikeouts.

Toussaint could also be part of that bullpen if he's able to get back into action soon. He was having a great spring before the action was stopped on March 12. Toussaint had allowed just two earned runs on two hits in 8.2 innings, with three walks and eight strikeouts.

Kozma was in the first camp as a non-roster player. The infielder, who has played in parts of seven MLB seasons with the Cardinals, Yankees, Rangers and Tigers, hit .167 in spring training. The Braves placed him on the 60-man player pool list last weekend.

Since Freeman is not feeling well, this will be the main curiosity of everyone who follows the Braves. It's scary he was obviously very careful and still somehow got the virus. It shows you how this virus can jump on anyone, regardless of how careful you may be in your surroundings.

Listen to The Bill Shanks Show weekdays at 3:00 p.m. ET on Middle Georgia’s ESPN. You can listen online at TheSuperStations.com. Follow Bill on Twitter at @billshanks and you can email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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