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Orlando Arcia is making the most of his opportunity

Arcia may have been an afterthought, but he is exceeding all expectations

San Diego Padres v. Atlanta Braves Photo by Todd Kirkland/MLB Photos via Getty Images

ATLANTA — When Spring Training began for the Atlanta Braves, Orlando Arcia looked like nothing more than a backup plan. In fact, that has been pretty much the case since he was acquired by the Braves from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for Chad Sobotka and Patrick Weigel. However, he is turning into one of the better stories for the team through their hot start to the 2023 season.

Arcia was the surprise winner this spring of the Braves’ shortstop competition and no matter what you thought about that decision, it is hard to argue with his performance over the first seven games. He came up big again Thursday night tallying three hits, including a homer and walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth.

“I like this situation,” Arcia said when asked about coming through in big spots. “I want to do whatever I can to help the team win. So I kind of fixate on that and do whatever it takes to just pull one out for the team.”

There was a stretch during the spring where it looked like the shortstop job was going to be Vaughn Grissom’s by default. Then it looked like it might actually be Braden Shewmake. Then in the end it was Arcia who was left standing.

“It’s like I previously said, those other guys are extremely talented and they know what they’re doing,” Arcia said of Vaughn Grissom and Braden Shewmake with whom he was competing with during the spring. “The team knows what they’re doing as well. And as far as me, I’m just really grateful for this opportunity.”

Arcia has taken advantage of that opportunity and is now hitting .370/.414/.667 with two doubles and two homers through the first seven games. He’s probably not going to make the flashiest plays at shortstop, but he’s made the ones that he needs to make. That seems to be the biggest thing the Braves were looking for coming out of the spring. When asked about his hot start, he said there is a much different mindset when you are playing every day instead of coming off the bench.

“I mean for me, I guess the only thing I can say is that I think your mentality completely changes when you’re playing every single day as opposed to playing a week on, playing a week off, making appearances,” Arcia said. “So with that said, you still have to go into every game and prepare appropriately and just be ready for each game every day.”

Atlanta has shown a lot of confidence in Arcia and probably more than he would warrant given his career numbers. They have inked him to two different contracts, including a three-year extension last week. Yet he has made some significant changes at the plate and was a league average hitter for the first time in his career last season. Brian Snitker has long lauded his experience and that was again the case for how he handled himself during the shortstop competition.

“Just how he’s handled everything. How he handled everything last year, so as long as he’s been here,” Snitker said of Arcia. “He’s been a really good player. He’s been a really good player for a long time. He’s been an everyday shortstop on division winning teams. He’s got a slow heartbeat, he’s confident in his abilities.”

Arcia showed that slow heart beat again Thursday when he delivered again in another big moment.

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