Markakis de Braves returns 3 weeks after choosing to leave season

ATLANTA (AP) – Nick Markakis returns to the Atlanta Braves, three weeks after announcing that he was choosing to exit the season due to his concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

Markakis, the veteran outfielder in his sixth season with Atlanta, said Wednesday that he changed his mind about staying out after watching his teammates play the first five games.

“Sitting at home, watching these guys compete … and all the risks they are going through going out, in the pit of my stomach I felt like I wanted to be out there,” said Markakis.

He said he realized it was possible to return after a phone call from Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos earlier this week.

Markakis, 36, earns $ 24,691 for each listed or disabled game as part of a $ 4 million, one-year contract. He says he has the full support of his family, including his three children, in his decision to return.

“It was nice to be home with the family, but more than anything I know that my family wanted me to be with the Braves,” he said.

Markakis retired on July 6, when he said he was uncomfortable about playing the season without fans and was later influenced by his phone conversation with teammate Freddie Freeman, who tested positive for COVID-19. Freeman struggled with symptoms including high fever 104.5 degrees, and Markakis acknowledged again Wednesday that he was influenced by Freeman’s struggles.

Freeman returned to start it’s from the season

Markakis said the Anthopulos call “made my decision a lot easier.”

“It’s been in my blood since I was 4 years old and it sucks, it sucks to watch baseball when you know you can still go out and compete on a daily basis,” he said. “He eats you a little.”

Markakis returns even when he says baseball’s struggles amid the pandemic are “probably worse now than before,” since the Miami Marlins season has been delayed by a COVID-19 outbreak.

He said he is trusting “the trust you place in Major League Baseball and the organization you are with” as he returns.

“Everyone in this world is taking risks on a daily basis,” he said. “You cannot hide and escape from it every day. My teammates are there every day taking risks and I sitting at home watching them on TV just didn’t feel good. ”

Markakis said he felt guilty about his decision to stay out of the season and planned to apologize to his teammates. “I rescued them and when I see them I will apologize to them and hope to be a part of them,” he said.

Markakis said he has worked regularly but will not know when he will be ready to return to the Braves roster until he speaks with manager Brian Snitker.

Freeman, setup man Will Smith, right-hander Touki Toussaint and infielder Pete Kozma tested positive for the coronavirus. Toussaint also returned, and Smith, who worked in Atlanta during the team’s maiden voyage, could return this week.

The Braves opened their season without their two best receivers, Tyler Flowers and Travis d’Arnaud, after the two felt sick. Both had negative results and joined the team for the opening game on Wednesday night against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Also Wednesday, the Braves activated outfielder Scott Schebler to the 30-player roster. Receivers Alex Jackson and William Contreras and right-hander Chad Sobotka were selected for the team’s alternate training site at Triple-A Gwinnett.

Markakis is the first baseball player to return after choosing not to participate.

Other notable players to choose to leave include Dodgers pitcher David Price, Washington infielder Ryan Zimmerman and Colorado outfielder Ian Desmond.

Markakis hit .285 with nine home runs and 62 RBIs in 2019. He was an All-Star in 2018.


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