During the Braves’ “At Home Opener” stream on Friday evening – when the team would’ve been playing its first game at Truist Park this season – general manager Alex Anthopoulos revealed an interesting nugget about the Braves’ third-base competition.
Austin Riley and Johan Camargo were playing so well, it’s likely both would’ve made the initial roster.
“Camargo, Riley were playing unbelievably well,” Anthopoulos told Fox Sports broadcaster Chip Carey, who was conducting the pre-recorded interview. “We hadn’t made a decision yet of who we were going to carry. We had started to talk about – the fact that the minor-league season was scheduled to start on April 9 and we were starting March 26 – we started to talk about carrying both. There’s no reason to leave them down in Florida. They’d both been playing well enough to make the team.
“And if it got to the point that we thought one of them needed to play each day, that could’ve been a conversation we could’ve had right when (Triple-A) Gwinnett was going to open the season. We could’ve sent a player down at that point.”
Riley was 10-for-28 this spring with two homers, two doubles and four RBIs. Most notably, he only struck out five times. He displayed a better, more comfortable approach at the plate that had the team encouraged he could trim his gaudy strikeout numbers (he whiffed in almost 40% of his at-bats across his rookie season).
A much leaner Camargo was almost equally impressive. The switch-hitter was 8-for-28 with one homer, two doubles and eight RBIs. The pair’s play was creating a welcomed tough decision for the Braves brass.
Manager Brian Snitker said he didn't see a pathway to carrying Camargo and Riley on the initial roster. Evidently, the team's thinking changed in the days between that March 1 proclamation and the sport's suspension 12 days later.
Ultimately, what Anthopoulos pondered probably would’ve won out. With both playing so well, there was little logic in leaving either in Florida. The Braves could’ve used a trial run with both, and if they determined one needed more reps, he could join the Triple-A club later.
Of course, the conversation is now moot. But if MLB resumes in 2020, it will surely do so with expanded rosters, making it even easier to carry both players. The team would still be tasked with finding each ample playing time, but that’s a discussion for a later day.