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Braves debating C or OF for final roster spot

Atlanta will either carry six outfielders or three catchers to start 2018
MLB.com @mlbbowman

JUPITER, Fla. -- With Johan Camargo set to begin the season on the disabled list, the Braves are debating whether to open the year with either a sixth outfielder or a third catcher.

Braves manager Brian Snitker was still evaluating the benefits of these two options before Thursday's game against the Cardinals at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. If the team places six outfielders on the Opening Day roster, one of those outfielders would be Danny Santana, whose capability to play the infield could prove beneficial as Camargo will miss at least the first six games of the season.

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JUPITER, Fla. -- With Johan Camargo set to begin the season on the disabled list, the Braves are debating whether to open the year with either a sixth outfielder or a third catcher.

Braves manager Brian Snitker was still evaluating the benefits of these two options before Thursday's game against the Cardinals at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. If the team places six outfielders on the Opening Day roster, one of those outfielders would be Danny Santana, whose capability to play the infield could prove beneficial as Camargo will miss at least the first six games of the season.

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Because the Braves do not need to carry five starters until April 10, they will likely carry an additional position player through the season's first 10 games. Once a fifth starter is needed, they would no longer be able to carry either a sixth outfielder or third catcher.

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The Braves opened last season with three catchers, partly because their bench was thin and there was a desire to enhance the number of opportunities one of the primary catchers -- Tyler Flowers or Kurt Suzuki -- could be utilized as a pinch-hitter.

Given the fact that Emilio Bonifacio served as the primary pinch-hitter during last season's first month, it's safe to describe this year's bench as being more formidable. But Snitker said he likes the idea of having Flowers or Suzuki available to face Nationals closer Sean Doolittle and some of the other late-inning lefty relievers the Braves might see during the season's first couple of weeks.

Chris Stewart would serve as the third catcher if the Braves go this route. The 36-year-old veteran signed a $575,000 non-guaranteed contract when spring camp began. The Braves would owe him approximately $138,000 (45 days termination pay) if he is released before the end of Spring Training. But even if Stewart doesn't start the season on Atlanta's roster, the club hopes he'll agree to serve as insurance while playing for Triple-A Gwinnett. Rob Brantly, who was reassigned to Minor League camp earlier this week, is already slated to serve as an experienced option for Gwinnett.

As Camargo remains on the disabled list through at least April 4, Rio Ruiz will serve as the primary third baseman and Charlie Culberson could also get some time at the hot corner. Ruiz enhanced his candidacy as his offensive production improved over the past couple weeks, but he wasn't considered a strong candidate for the Opening Day roster until Camargo began feeling discomfort near his right oblique muscle last week.

Video: ATL@PHI: Ruiz lines a two-run home run to right

Barring the acquisition of an external option within the next week, the six outfielders who might be on Atlanta's Opening roster are Ender Inciarte, Nick Markakis, Preston Tucker, Lane Adams, Ezequiel Carrera and Santana.

The Braves would need to create a 40-man roster spot for both Santana and Carrera. Another spot on the roster will have to be opened for Ronald Acuna Jr., who could become Atlanta's everyday left fielder as early as April 14.

Before Camargo was slated to go on the disabled list, it looked like Carrera and Adams would compete for the final 25-man roster spot reserved for a position player. But instead of evaluating this battle over Spring Training's final week, the Braves will debate whether it makes more sense to carry fill that final role with either an outfielder or a catcher.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves, Danny Santana