“I think it’s just going to be a great tool to have,” Snitker said. “The games will dictate [usage]. They’re not matchup guys. You can foresee Will pitching the eighth and Melancon the ninth right now. On any given day, hopefully we’re going to need more than one of those guys to close games. That would be the ideal situation.”
Melancon served as a setup man and Smith was the closer while the two were together with the Giants last year. Smith has established himself as one of the game’s top relievers as he has produced a 2.66 ERA while converting 48 of 56 save opportunities over the past two years.
But for now, the Braves will project Smith for the eighth inning and likely end up using him whenever it looks like the opponent’s best left-handed hitter or hitters will be due up in high-leverage situations.
“Can Smith [handle the closer’s role]? Of course,” Melancon said. “Can I do that role? Of course. Can Shane do that role? Of course. We’ve got Chris [Martin], too. [Luke] Jackson has done it. We’re powerful down there. That’s the end of the story. You don’t need anything else. Roles are roles, so that you know when to be prepared. It’s good to know the roles, but we’re capable of mixing and matching.”
Between Smith (34), Greene (23), Jackson (18) and Melancon (12), the Braves have four relievers who combined for 87 saves last year. Smith and Greene both secured their first All-Star selections in 2019. Melancon has garnered this honor three times, most recently in 2016.
Martin knows last year’s National League Division Series might have had a different result had he not strained his left oblique while warming up for the eighth inning of Game 1. So it’s safe to say he was quite frustrated as he sat at his Dallas-area residence and watched the Cardinals roll to a Game 5 win over the Braves.
“I’m ready for the season to get started so we can wash that under the board,” Martin said. “It [stinks]. You go the whole offseason knowing how your season ended. I was at home watching that last game. It was a tough pill to swallow. You come in this season more motivated to work harder. That’s all you can do.”
Given how his season ended, Martin did not know what to expect as he entered this year’s free-agent market. But the 33-year-old right-hander’s concerns were quickly erased on Nov. 19, when the Braves signed him to a two-year, $14 million deal.
“It was a pretty easy decision,” Martin said. “This is an unbelievable clubhouse. These guys are great. They’re talented and young. There’s a big future. Hopefully, we can get a little revenge this year.”
Ready to Camargo
Johan Camargo has drawn regular praise dating back to last month, when he arrived at Chop Fest approximately 20 pounds lighter than he was last year, when he admittedly was adversely mentally affected by the team’s decision to move him to a bench role.
With Josh Donaldson gone, Camargo now has a strong chance to once again be the Braves’ primary third baseman. He capably handled the role in 2018, when he produced the team’s third-best Weighted Runs Created Plus (117) after gaining the starting role in late May.
“You can tell that kid has dedicated himself to getting his body right and getting strong,” Snitker said. “The way he finished last year after coming back from Triple-A was also very encouraging.”