Inciarte says goodbye to Braves fans as team releases him

Atlanta Braves outfielder Ender Inciarte catches a ball  during team practice Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, at CoolToday Park in North Port, Fla. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

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Atlanta Braves outfielder Ender Inciarte catches a ball during team practice Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, at CoolToday Park in North Port, Fla. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Braves notes

Five days after the Braves designated him for assignment, veteran center fielder Ender Inciarte said goodbye to Atlanta fans Thursday as the team officially released him.

“Atlanta, I know we didn’t have much to share the last couple of years, but that doesn’t mean I stop loving you,” Inciarte posted on social media. “From day one we had great moments. … Even through tough times, you were still there to pick me up.”

He concluded the post: “I’ve been waiting all this time thinking what to say that can actually explain this goodbye but there isn’t a special way. All I can say is I love you and thank you! You’ll always have a special place in my heart! #ChopOn.”

The Braves acquired Inciarte, along with shortstop Dansby Swanson, from the Arizona Diamondbacks in December 2015.

He won Gold Glove awards in each of his first three seasons with the Braves and made the National League All-Star team in 2017, when he hit a career-high .304 with 11 home runs, 57 RBIs and 22 stolen bases. But, slowed by injuries, he was phased out of the Braves’ starting outfield in recent years, hitting .190 in limited play last season and .215 this season.

When the Braves designated Inciarte for assignment Saturday, they didn’t say whether the 30-year-old outfielder might remain in the organization after clearing waivers. But by releasing him Thursday, they officially ended his six-season stint with the team.

Smyly’s short start

Braves pitcher Drew Smyly, who exited his previous start with knee pain last weekend, returned to the mound Thursday, starting against the Mets and working four-plus innings.

“The knee was fine. It didn’t bother me,” Smyly said afterward. “I think, maybe a little subconsciously, I wasn’t driving down the hill the same way, maybe slightly trying to protect it, throwing a little tentatively at times. Maybe that kind of made my stuff not as sharp.”

Smyly allowed three runs on nine hits in the short start, throwing 85 pitches.

“It was kind of a so-so day for me,” he said. “Obviously I wasn’t happy with the short outing. I was hoping to go a little further.”

Awaiting trade deadline

With MLB’s trade deadline at 4 p.m. Friday, Braves players are interested to see what moves general manager Alex Anthopoulos will make.

Asked on Thursday what he’d like to see happen, third baseman Austin Riley said: “It’s tough to say, really, whether it’s an arm or a position player. I know we’re getting (pitcher Huascar Ynoa and catcher Travis d’Arnaud) back at some point here soon (from the injured list), so that’ll be huge. If a move does happen, I think it just helps us even more.”