The Braves plan to place center fielder Ender Inciarte on the 15-day disabled list and promote top outfield prospect Mallex Smith from Triple-A Gwinnett to make his big-league debut. The Braves didn’t announce the move after the loss to the Cardinals on Sunday at Turner Field but are expected to make the transactions official before starting a four-game series at the Nationals on Monday.
Inciarte left Friday’s game after feeling tightness in his left hamstring while running to first base. The next day manager Fredi Gonzalez described Inciarte’s injury as a strain but hoped the team could avoid placing him on the DL. The team eventually decided to make the move so as not to rush Inciarte back into the lineup.
Inciarte spent a month on the DL in 2015 after suffering a right hamstring injury while playing for the Diamondbacks. Inciarte had hoped to return to the lineup within a few days but said he understands why the Braves are being cautious.
“What happened this year is not as bad but a little similar,” he said. “(Braves medical personnel) know what they are doing. They have a lot of experience so I trust them.”
Before Inciarte’s injury, Gonzalez said his superlative play in center field and productive hitting in the lead-off spot meant the Braves could be patient with Smith. Now Inciarte’s injury opens the door for the Braves to get an earlier-than-expected look at Smith in the majors.
The Braves acquired Smith, 23, as part of a trade with the Padres in December 2014. Baseball America in February ranked Smith as the No. 10 overall prospect in the Braves’ system and the top outfielder. Smith, a former football star, is not as experienced as most prospects his age but Gonzalez has said he’d be comfortable playing him.
Smith led all of minor league baseball with 88 stolen bases (114 attempts) in 2014 while playing at the Single-A level. Last year Smith hit .303 with a .371 on-base percentage, eight triples and 56 steals in 125 games between Double-A and Triple-A.
Smith hit.346 (9-for-26) with seven extra-base hits in 15 games for the Braves during spring training before being sent to minor-league camp. In three games with Gwinnett his season Smith is 6-for-15 with two doubles, a triple and a stolen base.
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