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Baseball notebook

Atlanta to keep nickname, but chant may be cut

The Braves are weighing the future of the fans' tomahawk chop chant.
The Braves are weighing the future of the fans' tomahawk chop chant.Dave Tulis/Associated Press

The Atlanta Braves say they have no plans to follow the lead of the NFL’s Washington Redskins and change their team name.

“We will always be the Atlanta Braves,” the team said in a letter to season ticket holders on Friday. The letter was obtained by the Associated Press on Monday.

The tomahawk chop chant used by Braves fans is under review, however.

The team said in the letter it is seeking input from the Native American community, fans, players, and former players as it examines the fan experience, including the chant.

The Redskins announced Monday they will change their name and Indian head logo. The Braves say they have established a “cultural working relationship” with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina and formed a Native American Working Group.

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The name came with the team on its move from Milwaukee to Atlanta in 1966. The name was adopted in 1912, when the team was based in Boston.

“Through our conversations, changing the name of the Braves is not under consideration or deemed necessary,” the team said in the letter.

Richard Sneed, principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, said in a statement the EBCI has explored “a potential partnership” with the Braves following discussions “about the cultural sensitivity” of the chant.

“As a people proud of our own identity, we do not support cultural appropriation or any disrespectful representation of Native nations,” Sneed said. “We believe that candid, thoughtful conversations are crucial to educating leaders and bringing about positive change. As such, we have committed to working with the Atlanta Braves as they explore opportunities to represent Native Nations more appropriately.”

Sneed said he looks forward to building a relationship with the Braves “to present a model for how other professional sports teams can work with Native Nations in a respectful and constructive manner.”

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Sneed's statement made no reference to the team name.

The tomahawk chop has been popular with fans since the early 1990s. The team often distributes red foam tomahawk cutouts used by fans who “chop” during the chant.

The chant caused a stir in last year’s NL Division Series. St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Ryan Helsley, a member of the Cherokee Nation, said he found the chant insulting. The Braves did not distribute the red foam cutouts before the decisive Game 5 of the series, won by the Cardinals, “out of respect for the concerns” expressed by Helsley.

The Braves then said they would continue to examine the issue after the season, and that process continues.

In the letter, the team said the chant “continues to inspire our players on the field.”

“With that in mind, we are continuing to listen to the Native American community, as well as our fans, players, and alumni to ensure we are making an informed decision on this part of our fan experience.”

Diabetes forces Hicks to sit out season

Hard-throwing St. Louis Cardinals reliever Jordan Hicks has opted out of playing this season, citing pre-existing health concerns.

The 23-year-old Hicks was diagnosed in high school as having Type 1 diabetes.

Hicks, who routinely tops 100 miles per hour, is recovering from Tommy John surgery on June 26, 2019. The righthander’s availability for this season was uncertain.

Hicks had been taking part in workouts at Busch Stadium, leading up to the Cardinals’ opener July 24 at home against Pittsburgh.

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“We respect and understand Jordan’s decision to opt out this season,” Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said. “We wish him well as he continues his recovery from elbow surgery, and we look forward to seeing Jordan back on the mound for the 2021 season.”

Hicks was 2-2 with 14 saves and a 3.14 ERA last season before he injured his elbow. He has hit 105 m.p.h. with his fastball.

Blue Jays to honor Fernandez

The Blue Jays will honor the late Tony Fernandez by wearing a patch with his No. 1 on the left sleeve of uniform jerseys this season.

Fernandez, a member of Toronto’s 1993 World Series champions who had nine RBIs in the six-game win over Philadelphia, had kidney problems and died Feb. 16 at age 57.

He is the Blue Jays’ career leader in games (1.450), hits (1,583) and triples (72). He spent 12 seasons with Toronto in four stints and had a .288 batting average and 2,276 hits over 17 big league seasons. Fernandez also played for the Padres, Mets, Yankees, Indians, Reds, and Brewers.

“There are few players in the game who can impact a team and a fan base the way Tony did in Toronto,” Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro said in a statement. “Beyond his impressive career numbers, achievements, and accolades, Tony resonated with baseball fans because of how he played the game and conducted himself as a teammate.”

Sandoval returns to action

Angels lefthander Patrick Sandoval is back with the team after contracting coronavirus last month.

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Sandoval disclosed his positive test Monday from the Angels’ summer camp, calling the virus “unlike anything I’d ever felt before.” He says he tested positive June 22.

Sandoval thinks he caught it while golfing with a friend because he had been careful about being out in public for several weeks beforehand. He said he endured three days of body aches, chills, and fever before his symptoms lessened. He rejoined the Angels last week.

Sandoval went 5-3 with a 3.66 ERA last season as a rookie with the Angels, making three starts.

Tigers release Godley

The Tigers have cut ties with Zack Godley, giving the righthander his unconditional release.

Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire says the move was made Monday to give the 30-year-old Godley a chance to sign with another team.

Godley is 37-30 with a 4.68 ERA in five major league seasons.

He signed a minor league contract and had been in Detroit's player pool for workouts this month at Comerica Park.

Godley won 15 games in 32 starts for Arizona in 2018, but made just nine starts last season for the Diamondbacks. Toronto claimed Godley off waivers in August, and he made six relief appearances for the Blue Jays. He was 4-5 with a 5.97 ERA in 2019.