Braves’ Snitker says Johnson no longer primary closer

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Braves’ Snitker says Johnson no longer primary closer

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Jim Johnson throws a pitch in the eighth inning during Sunday's game against the Phillies.

Braves right-hander Jim Johnson no longer is the team’s primary closer after his recent struggles prompted manager Brian Snitker to try others in the role.

Johnson blew his majors-high eighth save and his third in his last seven chances on Saturday against the Phillies. The next day Johnson pitched the eighth inning with the score tied, and Snitker said he was holding back right-hander Arodys Vizcaino for a possible save situation.

It didn’t come to that because the Phillies broke the tie with Freddy Galvis’ game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the ninth. But Snitker said the next time the Braves need a save it won’t necessarily be Johnson taking the mound.

“Probably mix and match maybe and see where we are at in the (opposing) lineups and things like that, and give some (other) guys a chance,” Snitker said.

Johnson, 34, has been the team’s primary closer for at least part of the past three seasons. He moved into the role during the the 2015 season before the Braves traded him to the Dodgers. The Braves signed Johnson to a one-year, $2.5 million contract for the 2016 season and a two-year, $10 million extension last October.

In 2015 Johnson had nine saves in 13 chances for the Braves with an overall 2.25 ERA. He took over as primary closer last season after Vizcaino went on the disabled list and had 20 saves in 23 chances with a 3.06 ERA overall. This year Johnson is 22-for-30 on saves with a 4.22 ERA in all situations.

Snitker said he expects that Johnson will be “fine” with the reduced role.

“He’s a pro,” Snitker said. “He’s a gamer.”

Vizcaino, 26, took over as the primary Braves closer after the team traded Johnson in 2015 and converted nine of 10 save chances. Vizcaino began last season as the closer and converted 10 of 13 save opportunities before going on the disabled list.

“He has ‘stuff’ to do that role,” Snitker said. “And we just kind of mix and match and swap it around and see who’s rested and maybe where we are at in the order and try to piece that thing together and make it happen.”

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