MIAMI – Braves manager Brian Snitker didn’t know who Lane Adams was at spring training, but he sure knows him now. So do the Marlins.
The Braves’ 27-year-old rookie outfielder had a three-run homer in the first inning Friday night against the Marlins, Adams’ fifth homer this season, second in as many nights in the series, and third homer in his past three games against the Marlins including an 11th-inning walk-off homer Sept. 10.
Adams had a total of three major league plate appearances before this season, those with the Royals in 2014, and didn’t even get an invitation to major league camp when he signed a minor league deal with the Braves last winter.
But he was brought over to play in a lot of Grapefruit League road games and made enough of an impression that Snitker remembered him well when Adams got his first call-up with the Braves near the end of April. And after making the most of initially limited opportunities as a pinch-hitter and late-innings defensive replacement, Adams slowly worked his way into what has been significant playing time late in the season and a likely spot on next year’s bench.
“He’s done a good job,” Snitker said before Friday’s game, when he gave Adams his 11th outfield start and his fourth in center field because of Ender Inciarte’s lingering sore thumb. “He’s a good guy to have, especially because he can play all three (outfield positions), can steal a base, has some power like he exhibited (Thursday) night. It’s good to have somebody like that you can go to.”
Snitker said he hoped that giving Inciarte a rest day would allow him to play the last two games of the season Saturday and Sunday. But if not, Adams has shown he has the speed and athleticism to play above-average defense in center as well as the corner-outfield spots.
He’s been one of the pleasant surprises for the Braves this season, and it began with Adams showing in spring training that he had skills that might help the big-league team.
“Seemed like every time we’d have a travel squad (in spring training) he’d show up, we’d get him in,” said Snitker, who had a message for players in spring training similar to one he gave them when he was a minor league manager and Hall of Famer Bobby Cox was Braves manager. “I used to tell guys, Bobby don’t care what round you were drafted in, how much money you got or whatever, if you can help him win a game he doesn’t care where you came from. And that’s kind of like we’ve got (now). Guys come, they perform, they get noticed and earn an opportunity. Lane’s had the opportunities and played well.”
Adams’ first-inning homer was his 11th hit and third homer in a span of 35 at-bats, and he also had a triple and two stolen bases in that period. It also gave him four homers and 10 RBIs in a span of 46 at-bats over 24 games going back to Aug. 31, and an OPS well over .900 in that span.
He was back and forth between Triple-A Gwinnett and the majors a couple of times early in the season, and Adams was just 6-for-28 (.214) with one extra-base hit and a .563 OPS in his first 32 games from April 27 through July 14, getting more than one at-bat in only two of those games and never more than two at-bats.
But in his past 50 games before Friday, he hit .309 (21-for-68) with seven extra-base hits, six stolen bases, a .392 OBP and .907 OPS -- and that was before his three-run homer in the first inning Friday off Marlins right-hander Dan Straily. Adams had multiple at-bats Friday for the 10th time in 14 games over the past 2 ½ weeks, and for the 14th time in his past 39 games.