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Inciarte making way back toward leadoff spot

After slow start, outfielder moving up in order
MLB.com @mlbbowman

MIAMI -- Ender Inciarte might eventually regain his role as the Braves' leadoff hitter. But for now, manager Brian Snitker just wants to give his Gold Glove center fielder a chance to further distance himself from his early-season offensive struggles.

"Part of me still thinks Ender could still be a real good leadoff hitter, because he has been for a long time," Snitker said. "But for now, we're going to allow him to work his way back up there."

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MIAMI -- Ender Inciarte might eventually regain his role as the Braves' leadoff hitter. But for now, manager Brian Snitker just wants to give his Gold Glove center fielder a chance to further distance himself from his early-season offensive struggles.

"Part of me still thinks Ender could still be a real good leadoff hitter, because he has been for a long time," Snitker said. "But for now, we're going to allow him to work his way back up there."

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Snitker reverted to using a traditional lineup structure during Thursday night's 9-2 series-opening win against the Marlins and their left-handed starter Caleb Smith. Ozzie Albies remained in the leadoff spot and Inciarte batted sixth. Both made valuable contributions.

Albies drilled the decisive grand slam during the seven-run sixth inning and Inciarte enjoyed a three-hit night that included a couple more hits against a left-hander.

Inciarte delivered a double in the second inning and sparked the uprising in the sixth with a one-out single. That gave him hits in four straight at-bats against a southpaw. Inciarte was 4-for-31 against them before this stretch. Inciarte then added an RBI double against a righty to cap the Braves' big sixth, his second hit of the inning.

"When he's swinging the bat like he can, it doesn't matter where he hits," Snitker said. "He's going to be a force."

Inciarte spent the past season and a half, and this season's first month, serving as the Braves' leadoff hitter. Albies moved into that role on April 30, when Snitker began what proved to be a seven-game experiment of putting the pitcher in the eighth spot and having Inciarte bat ninth.

Snitker said one of his primary reasons for using that arrangement for about a week was to fuel Inciarte. The veteran outfielder hit just .182 with a .242 on-base percentage during his first 14 games. But he had hit .346 with a .370 OBP in the 11 games played before the change was made.

Inciarte produced more from the power perspective as he tallied two doubles, a triple and a homer in 26 at-bats while batting ninth. But he hit just .231 with a .333 OBP at the bottom of the order.

"I know Snit is going to do the best he can to put this team in the best position to win games," Inciarte said. "I'm not going to be concerned about what he's going to do. I've always liked hitting in the leadoff spot. But wherever I can help the team, I'm going to be OK with it."

As Inciarte enjoyed his first 200-hit season last year and proved effective in the leadoff role, he enjoyed consistent success against left-handed pitchers, hitting .325 and compiling a .380 OBP against them from the 2016 All-Star break through the end of last season.

With his success within these past two games, he is now hitting .222 (8-for-36) with a .282 OBP against lefties this year.

The switch-hitting Albies entered this series hitting .450 with a .439 OBP versus left-handers and .223 with a .279 OBP vs. right-handers. These splits provide reason for the Braves to at least contemplate platooning Inciarte and Albies in the leadoff spot.

Snitker said he would consider the potential platoon, but he made it clear he has not made any definitive plans.

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

Atlanta Braves, Ender Inciarte