Riley's surge eases Braves' 3B uncertainty

July 23rd, 2020

ATLANTA -- Before hit a pair of solo homers in the Braves' 6-2 loss to the Marlins on Wednesday afternoon at Truist Park, took pain-free batting practice and passed the running and agility tests administered by the training staff.

It was a good day for the Braves’ two third basemen. But with the regular season set to begin with Friday's 4:10 p.m. ET game against the Mets, it’s still not known how manager Brian Snitker plans to utilize these guys. In fact, Camargo won’t even know whether he's made the Opening Day roster until he tests his right hamstring again on Thursday morning.

The rosters are due by Thursday at noon ET. The Braves will depart a short time later for New York.

“Camargo has only been on the field once within the past five days,” Snitker said of the infielder, who tweaked his right hamstring during an intrasquad game on Saturday. “If he tests [well] tomorrow and then goes up there on Friday and works out, there’s a pretty good chance, [but] he’s not going to be in the lineup on Friday. It might be a few days in before we can get him out there.”

So, the Braves’ Opening Day third baseman will be Riley. But other than saying he wouldn’t be using a strict platoon between the right-handed-hitting Riley and the switch-hitting Camargo, Snitker has not said how he will divvy up the playing time at the hot corner.

Riley struggled to garner the results he was seeking during the Braves' scrimmages and intrasquad games over the past couple weeks. But the 23-year-old slugger showed his power in Wednesday's exhibition game, the club's final tune-up before the season. He cleared the center-field wall against Pablo López’s 95.1 mph fastball in the third inning, then went the other way with a homer off Elieser Hernandez’s 92.3 mph fastball in the fifth.

“It’s real good,” Snitker said of Riley's progress. “I think he made a couple adjustments today, and it seemed to work.”

While Camargo proved to be a capable starting third baseman in helping the Braves win the 2018 National League East title, Riley has the potential to be a difference maker with his power. He hit 14 homers through his first 42 career games last year but then struggled as pitchers baffled him with offspeed and breaking pitches over the season’s final three months.

Hamels update
Asked whether has made any recent progress, Snitker said the veteran left-hander is still just playing catch.

“It’s just going to take a while,” Snitker said.

The Braves have not revealed whether Hamels has had a setback since left triceps tendinitis prevented him from throwing a side session on July 11. But the 36-year-old southpaw has been playing catch-up since missing Spring Training with left shoulder inflammation. He reported to Summer Camp on time but was not ready to face hitters, like each of the club's other rotation candidates.

Wright’s role?
With Hamels out of the picture for now, the Braves could give the rotation’s fifth spot to , who allowed two runs on four hits and three walks over 3 2/3 innings on Wednesday. The highly regarded prospect -- No. 4 on MLB Pipeline's list of the Braves' Top 30 -- exited Wednesday's start without having been told whether he’s lined up to start the team’s fifth game of the season, on Tuesday in St. Petersburg. The only other legitimate candidate would be veteran Jhoulys Chacín, who signed a one-year deal on Tuesday.

If Wright is not in the rotation, he’ll be ready to join the piggyback approach the Braves plan to use for some of their starters over the season’s first couple weeks. Wright was used in a similar relief role during his freshman season at Vanderbilt University.

“I’ve done some piggybacks during Spring Training,” Wright said. “It’s nothing out of the ordinary that I couldn’t do, so I’m definitely OK doing that.”

Crazy travel
When learned he was unlikely to make the Mets’ Opening Day roster, he opted out of his Minor League deal and spent all day Saturday driving back to his St. Louis home. Along his journey, which ended at 3 a.m. ET Sunday, he learned the Braves might be interested in signing him.

After spending Sunday with his family, Adams took off early Monday morning to begin an eight-hour drive to Atlanta. So within a span of a little more than 48 hours, the left-handed slugger spent at least 23 hours driving.

“I slept like a baby on Monday night, that’s for sure,” Adams said.

As Adams preps to be the Braves’ primary designated hitter, he will attempt to rekindle the success he enjoyed with Atlanta in 2017, when he hit 19 homers in just 291 at-bats. The left-handed slugger showed some of his power when he hit a walk-off homer to end Tuesday’s 10-9 win over the Marlins, then was re-introduced to third-base coach Ron Washington’s socially distanced toe tap.

“He almost tripped me,” said Adams, 31. “I really didn’t know what he was going to do until I saw his foot sticking out. Then, I had to give him some love.”

Up next
Right-hander Mike Soroka will make his first Opening Day start when the Braves hit the road to begin their season against the Mets on Friday at 4:10 p.m. ET on MLB.TV. Soroka will be opposing Jacob deGrom, who has won the past two NL Cy Young Awards. Atlanta has won both of the two previous games in which these two aces opposed each other. This will be a historic day for the 22-year-old Soroka, who will become the youngest Opening Day starter in the Braves' modern-era history.