ATLANTA — Hank Aaron and Phil Niekro were both remembered as the Braves prepared for Friday night’s home opener against the Phillies at Truist Park.
Niekro passed away on Dec. 26, and the baseball world mourned Aaron’s passing on Jan. 22. The Hall of Famers will forever stand as two of the most beloved players in Braves history.
“Losing both Phil and Hank this year is tough because of what they meant to this organization, not only as players, but as people,” Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson said. “The older I get, the more I understand life. Seeing how good of people they were beyond their accomplishments on the field means more to an organization than their accomplishments ever could.”
The Braves’ pregame video tribute honored Aaron, Niekro, former owner Bill Bartholmay and their longtime announcer Don Sutton. Bartholmay died on March 25, 2020. Sutton passed away just four days before Aaron.
As fans entered Truist Park for the first time in 18 months, they were greeted with the image of a large “44” painted on the center field grass. This, of course, was the number Aaron during almost all of his 21 seasons with the Braves.
The Braves will honor these two legends by spending the entirety of this first homestand wearing the throwback jerseys Niekro and Aaron were wearing in 1974, when Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record.
Martin, Adrianza rejoin team
Since the beginning of Spring Training, the Braves have boasted about their newfound depth in the bullpen. Unfortunately, in Chris Martin’s season debut vs. the Phillies he would only throw 17 pitches before being replaced by Grant Dayton due to soreness in his fingers.
Martin came out the gate retiring Andrew McCutchen, but he would give up three straight hits, including the go-ahead RBI single to Alec Bohm. Martin is currently in the second year of a two-year $14 million contract with Atlanta and is one of the most important players out of the bullpen. After his injury, the Braves opted not to place Martin on the injured list, a decision that Atlanta is proud of as Martin warmed up with the team before Friday’s series opener.
As Martin rejoined the team, so did infielder Ehire Adrianza. Adrianza was recently activated from the restricted list, which required a move sending Johan Camargo to the alternate training site. With Adrianza rejoining the team it allows the Braves to continue to carry an extra pitcher and utilize their depth out of the bullpen.
The Braves spent much of Spring Training discussing whether to keep Adrianza or Camargo. Unfortunately for Camargo, his lack of consistency from the plate just wasn’t enough, especially when compared to not only Adrianza, but other hitters on the Braves’ bench. Adrianza would end Grapefruit League play batting .400 with 16 hits, 12 RBIs, and two home runs.
He has displayed that he can play multiple positions within the infield, and if he can carry his offensive success from Spring Training into the regular season, he will be a versatile option off the bench.