Mark Bowman of MLB.com reported Thursday morning that Ender Inciarte is injured with a sore thumb and the team is unsure when he will be able to return to playing.
Ender Inciarte is dealing with a sore thumb. The Braves aren't sure when he might be ready to resume playing.— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) March 11, 2021
This fits what many had suspected, since Inciarte has not appeared in a spring training game for a week. Unfortunately for Inciarte, this may be the nail in the coffin for his chance at opening the season as the starting center fielder, since top prospect Cristian Pache already seemed to have the edge in that competition and has looked good this spring. Inciarte was expected to be on the opening day roster regardless of whether he started, so if this injury lingers it could open up a roster spot for one of the many veteran outfielders the Braves have brought in in the past few weeks.
In other news, Brian Snitker discussed the team’s rotation plans this morning. David O’Brien of the Athletic shared this quote from Snitker:
Snitker said off days in the early schedule could allow #Braves to start the season with 4 starters and an extra bench player or reliever. They've not made those decisions yet. As season goes on, they plan to use off days to give starters extra rest. But won't have to early.— David O'Brien (@DOBrienATL) March 11, 2021
This means that they could opt not to fill Mike Soroka’s rotation spot at the start of the season. With that being said, it does seem like they will need a fifth starter less than a week into the season, so this extra bench or bullpen spot may only be there for around 5 games. It is also notable that Snitker plans to use off-days to give starters extra rest, as opposed to using them to skip the fifth starter. This is a testament to the depth of the team’s rotation this season with the additions of Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly, the return of Mike Soroka, and a full season of Ian Anderson. This rest will be especially useful as pitchers adjust back to the grind of a 162 game season, after the drastically shorter 60 game season of 2020.