‘It might be a while’ before Austin Riley takes outfield

Riley, the system’s top position player prospect, is blocked by free-agent acquisition Josh Donaldson, who signed a one-year deal with the Braves in November. Manning a corner-outfield spot would create another avenue to help Riley to the majors, but for now the team wants to see him at his natural position.

“He’s going to be at third base the first game (Saturday),” manager Brian Snitker said. “I want to get him some work out there before I put him in some drills. It might be a while before he gets out there (in the outfield), if he does.”

The Braves play the Mets at 1:10 p.m. Saturday at Port St. Lucie.

The 21-year-old Riley hit .275 with 12 homers and 47 RBIs in Triple-A last season. A knee injury stalled the middle of his campaign, and perhaps prevented his major-league debut. By the time September rolled around, the Braves were in the thick of a pennant race and didn’t have the at-bats for Riley.

Riley likely won’t make the opening-day roster, but showcasing versatility in spring will only help his case. He’s expected to get the call sometime this season.

Snitker spoke extremely well of Riley, setting high expectations for the next month and endorsing the slugger’s mental makeup.

“By the end of spring, we’re looking at him and this kid is pushing – he’s going to show us he’s ready,” Snitker said.

I’d be real surprised if that doesn’t happen. I think that’s where he’s at. It’s not new to him, the big-league camp thing. He’s a kid who I’m sure feels like can play here, has confidence in his abilities. I’d be real surprised if he doesn’t have one of those springs where, man, another year (without Donaldson) he’d probably make the club. I think that’s where he’s at, how he’s carrying himself. He looks really good.”

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