Austin Riley returns to Braves lineup but goes 0-for-4

Third baseman Austin Riley returned to the Braves’ lineup Monday, hitting second for the series opener against the Nationals. He went 0-for-4 but looked comfortable in the field. Riley had missed 13 games dealing with side soreness but said he’s feeling fully healthy as he resumes playing.

“I’m just excited to be back,” Riley said. “I’m feeling good. It took longer than I wanted it to, but I’m feeling great.”

Initially, the team and Riley expected he’d only miss a few days, which led to the team’s decision not to place him on the injured list. But Riley progressed slower than anticipated. This was a rare absence for Riley, who’d missed only eight games across the previous three campaigns.

Newcomer Zack Short handled third base in Riley’s absence, hitting .158/.319/.211 in 14 games (47 plate appearances). Short remains as the Braves’ primary infield depth.

While the Braves lost reigning National League MVP Ronald Acuña for the season (torn ACL), the lineup was bolstered by Riley and catcher Sean Murphy (oblique) returning Monday. Both players were All-Stars last season.

“I’m excited to be back, and you take a guy like Sean who’s an All-Star and what he’s capable of doing at the plate and behind the plate, it’s a boost,” Riley said.

Riley had sputtered much of the season before his injury. He is hitting .238.