Before the Braves and Cardinals played Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Thursday, Braves manager Brian Snitker spoke with the media on his roster decisions and the value of last season’s playoff appearance.
» The Braves’ 25-man postseason roster includes 12 players who weren’t with the group to begin the season. Their bench is almost entirely new, featuring outfielders Billy Hamilton, Adam Duvall and Rafael Ortega, catcher Francisco Cervelli and infielder Adeiny Hechavarria.
The bullpen, shuffled throughout the season, includes Darren O’Day, Josh Tomlin and the trio of newcomers who arrived at the trade deadline: Shane Greene, Mark Melancon and Chris Martin. Sean Newcomb, once a starter, became a crucial part of the bullpen as well.
“It's just an indication what you go through over the course of a long season -- injuries, performance, the whole thing,” Snitker said. “I think we've done a really good job organizationally of filling some holes when the need arose. And unfortunately we had a need early when we left spring training. We pretty much didn't have our rotation at all. And it took a while to heal that. And then towards the end we lost, at one point we lost three of the eight starting position players for an extended period of time.
“So we've been really good organizationally at filling those holes and having guys that came in and that made an immediate impact. And so it doesn't really surprise me a lot.”
» Snitker has said throughout the season that last season’s NLDS appearance was immensely valuable for his young club. The Braves have carried themselves with more confidence – as any team winning 97 games would – and enter the series expecting to advance rather than being satisfied with a postseason berth.
“I just think they're, starting in spring training, they're a more confident group,” Snitker said. “When you go through what they went through last year and to have this success that some of them did that -- it's a really a great steppingstone for them in their career. And they never -- I don't think any of these guys ever feel like that they're a finished product. And if you watch them work and you watch them go about it on a daily basis, I think you'd see why, that they all feel like they can get better, improve and become a better ballplayer than what they are now.
“I think they know and I want them -- two things, (to) know how hard they had to work to get it last year; and the second thing was how good they felt when they did accomplish what they wanted to last year, which was winning the division. And to a man, I think all of those guys put that, the experience they had to the perfect use this year in preparing for what they went through this year.”
» To some, the decision to pair Game 1 starter Dallas Keuchel with Brian McCann instead of Tyler Flowers may have been a surprise. Despite Keuchel’s history with McCann in Houston, he’d pitched masterfully with Flowers behind the plate.
Keuchel with Flowers: 2.93 ERA, 59 strikeouts and 25 walks in 11 starts (61-1/3 innings).
Keuchel with McCann: 4.73 ERA, 32 strikeouts and 14 walks in nine starts (51-1/3 innings).
Now, his stats with Flowers could be superseded by his past with McCann. Keuchel and McCann won the 2017 World Series together with the Astros, and pairing them for a pivotal Game 1 here is a logical choice. As Snitker explained, that was the deciding factor.
“He and Mac have been through this before,” Snitker said. “That wasn't intentional (that he worked with Flowers so often). I told both those guys, it kind of happened. Mac, I think it was when he went through his (injured list) spot, and it just worked and it kind of happened to line up right. I talked to Dallas about it at length, and he's good with either of them, loves both of them.”
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