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Ruiz hopes to make most of chance as starter

23-year-old will start at third base after injury to Camargo
MLB.com @mlbbowman

JUPITER, Fla. -- Braves manager Brian Snitker wants Rio Ruiz to recognize he has a chance to do more than simply fill in for the injured Johan Camargo during the regular season's first week.

"Situations happen," Snitker said before the Braves' 8-2 loss to the Cardinals on Thursday afternoon at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. "A door gets opened, a guy goes through it and doesn't give it back."

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JUPITER, Fla. -- Braves manager Brian Snitker wants Rio Ruiz to recognize he has a chance to do more than simply fill in for the injured Johan Camargo during the regular season's first week.

"Situations happen," Snitker said before the Braves' 8-2 loss to the Cardinals on Thursday afternoon at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. "A door gets opened, a guy goes through it and doesn't give it back."

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While Camargo is on the disabled list through at least the season's first six games, Ruiz will serve as the Braves' primary third baseman.

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Once Camargo returns, he will most likely assume his projected role as Atlanta's everyday third baseman. But if there is a need for him to replace Dansby Swanson as the Braves' shortstop, Ruiz might once again find himself within Atlanta's lineup.

Ruiz had his sights on becoming Atlanta's primary third baseman. But his future was clouded last year by Camargo's emergence and the rise of Austin Riley, a highly regarded prospect who could reach the Major League level within the next year.

Ruiz's struggles during the early portion of the Grapefruit League season were significant enough for the Braves to take a flier on Ryan Schimpf, who was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett last week after not recording a hit in 16 at-bats while with Atlanta.

But since opening the Grapefruit League season with seven hits and 15 strikeouts through his first 38 at-bats, Ruiz has gone 7-for-22 with just three strikeouts.

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

Ruiz hit .193 with four home runs and 41 strikeouts in 150 at-bats for Atlanta last season. He went 5-for-12 with a pair of homers against big league left-handers. That is a small sample size, but as he's continued to trend in the right direction by going 4-for-13 against southpaws this spring, he has provided indication he wouldn't need to platoon at third base with Charlie Culberson.

"Rio didn't start real well, but now he's made a strong finish," Snitker said. "He's made adjustments. I know he and [hitting coach Kevin Seitzer] have been working in the cage. He's swinging that thing pretty good right now."

Bullpen battle
Shane Carle took advantage of another opportunity to at least be considered for a bullpen spot this season. But Lucas Sims might have bid adieu to his Opening Day roster chances during Thursday's game.

"You give guys opportunities and you want them to run with them," Snitker said. "Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't. There's still options."

The Braves are still toying with the idea of filling their final two available bullpen spots with long relievers. Matt Wisler, Scott Kazmir and Carle seem to now stand as the top options if the team goes that route.

Given a chance to start Thursday's game and improve his bid for one of those long relief spots, Sims allowed eight runs -- six earned -- and issued four walks over just three innings. He has been charged with 10 earned runs through six innings over his past two appearances.

"Lucas just struggled with his command," Snitker said. "I don't know if he had any. I can't even quantify it. But do I still believe in the kid? Absolutely. I think he has a chance to be a part of the bullpen or be a kid who can start. It was just a rough outing."

Carle followed Sims and proved perfect during his two-inning stint. The right-hander, acquired from the Pirates in January, has allowed just one run over 9 2/3 innings this month.

"[Carle] was pretty good," Snitker said. "His stuff was crisp. That was probably the bright spot of the day."

Injury report
Luiz Gohara hasn't started throwing off a mound yet, but he has given the Braves reason to believe he could be ready to join Atlanta's rotation around the start of May. Gohara strained his left groin during the first week of camp and then sprained his left ankle on March 9. He will spend the next month progressing through what will essentially be his personal Spring Training.

Up next
Anibal Sanchez will continue his battle for a rotation spot when the Braves host the Tigers on Friday at 1:05 p.m. ET, live on MLB.TV. Sanchez signed a Minor League deal with the Braves last week after being released by the Twins.

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

Atlanta Braves, Rio Ruiz