ATLANTA — Former Cy Young winner Félix Hernández has opted out of the 2020 season, at least temporarily ending his bid to revive his career with the Atlanta Braves.
Braves manager Brian Snitker said Sunday that Hernández, 34, opted out due to the coronavirus pandemic. The decision was made after Hernández participated in workouts on Friday and Saturday at Truist Park.
The decision came a day after Snitker announced that four-time All-Star first baseman Freddie Freeman, premier reliever Will Smith and two more Atlanta players tested positive for COVID-19. Right-hander Touki Toussaint and infielder Pete Kozma also had positive tests announced on Saturday.
Snitker said Hernández may have realized “it is way, way different” now as players must deal with the concerns of trying to start the season during the pandemic.
Hernández, a six-time All-Star in 15 seasons with Seattle who won the 2010 AL Cy Young Award, needed a fresh start following 2019, his worst season. The right-hander called King Felix posted a 6.40 ERA, was 1-8 in 15 starts and lost his spot in the rotation.
Hernández signed a one-year minor league deal with the Braves on Jan. 20 . The deal included an invitation to big league spring training, and he would have earned $1 million if added to Atlanta’s 40-man roster.
Snitker said no decision had been made on the competition for the final spot in the rotation. With veteran left-hander Cole Hamels apparently on track for the start of the 60-game season on July 23 or 24, the rotation also is expected to include Mike Soroka, Mike Foltynewicz and Max Fried.
Soroka said Sunday that having Freeman and other teammates test positive has been a reality check for the team.
“This was a bit of a wake-up call for all of us and I think for some of our fan base as well,” Soroka said.