Alex Anthopoulos and the Atlanta Braves spent much of the offseason trying to shore up the team’s depth. That played into many of the Opening Day roster decisions at the end of spring. That depth is getting put to the test early on in the 2023 regular season.
Michael Harris became the latest Braves player to hit the injured list on Friday with what was called a lower back sprain. Harris left Thursday’s game after the third inning and it appeared that he might have tweaked the bat on a stolen base. Harris said Friday that he first felt it while making a leaping catch at the wall in St. Louis and then aggravated it again on the stolen base Thursday.
“It’s stiff, just one of those things,” Brian Snitker said of Harris’ back. “It’s early, we don’t want to push anybody. We want to make sure we get him right. He probably would have missed four or five days out of the lineup. So I think we just decided that we’ll go ahead and take care of this.”
“He’s a guy that plays all out and he’s not afraid to run into a wall to make plays and dive and steal bases,” Snitker added. “So it’s just strained, but nothing big. I don’t think it’s anything we feel like a stint on the IL won’t take care of.”
Sam Hilliard replaced Harris in center Thursday night and is starting there again Friday. The Braves recalled Eli White from Gwinnett to take Harris’ spot on the active roster. Snitker didn’t disclose how he might handle the playing time in center with Harris out, but both could get an opportunity in the coming days.
“It’s just an opportunity for somebody to do something really good,” Snitker said. “Eli had a really strong spring and we saw his skill set and what he could bring. Credit the organization to get that outfield depth and all that, because just like the pitching, we’re going to end up using it all.”
The Braves acquired White from the Rangers for cash considerations during the offseason. He hasn’t had a ton of success at the major league level, but he made some adjustments during the spring and was 12-for-28 at the plate with two doubles, a triple and three home runs. He played well enough to be on the Opening Day roster, but having a pair of options remaining ultimately worked against him. He is 4-for-17 with three home runs through four games at Gwinnett before his call up.
“I just love the tool set,” Snitker said of White. “Didn’t know that much about him. Showed the power, speed, ability to play all the outfield positions. Just a really talented player and he’s a big, strong guy. He had a really good spring overall, so we’re very fortunate to have guys like that we can call on.”
Hilliard has played in two games and is 1-for-4 at the plate. Like White, he hasn’t had a lot of success at the major league level, but has all of the tools to make an impact. Snitker thinks that either could have a breakout given an opportunity.
“He could, yeah. With the tools, he’s capable of that,” Snitker said. “Just in the right scenario and something clicks and he starts figuring things out. He’s a very skilled player and has tools and versatility. You never know on those guys when it might click and hopefully it’s now.”
Kyle Wright, Max Fried update
Kyle Wright logged six innings at Gwinnett Wednesday night and came out of the outing feeling good.
“Yeah, I talked to him yesterday,” Snitker said of Wright. “He got through everything. Got his pitches, his ups and so we’ll just see what happens his next side.”
Wright was in the Braves’ clubhouse Thursday and Friday so it seems plausible that if everything goes well in his next side session, that he could be ready to start when he is eligible to return from the injured list.
Snitker said Thursday that Max Fried was feeling better, but hadn’t resumed running. A little later, Fried jogged onto the field from the dugout during pregame introductions for the home opener.
“I hope he was careful when he ran out there,” Snitker said laughing. “It’s the first running he’s done. Actually, I did ask him and he said it felt great when he jogged out there. He feels really good. It’s just a matter of his throwing and would be more about him coming off the mound, fielding bunts, covering first. That kind of stuff we’re more worried about than the actual pitching.”
While there is still no definitive timeline for Fried, it would seem that it is possible that he could be ready to return when his time on the injured list is up.