Ender Inciarte begins baseball activities as choices loom for Braves

Braves outfielder Ender Inciarte played catch and ran in the field Saturday, his first time resuming baseball activities since landing on the injured list with a lumbar strain May 15.

Inciarte, 28, had been doing only standard rehab and exercises. His back was still bothering him as recently as earlier this week. He took the field Friday, though he did nothing more than walk around.

“He’s feeling good enough where he’s running, he’s going to throw,” manager Brian Snitker said. “But he’s not going to hit yet. He’s feeling good enough to start his progression, so that’s good.”

An interesting conundrum awaits the Braves upon Inciarte’s return, though that’s still a while away. Rookie Austin Riley has been a sensation while handling left field. His bat is threatening enough that it quickly became clear the Braves were better with him in the lineup.

The team could opt to use Inciarte in a bench role, which would necessitate either designating Matt Joyce for assignment or even optioning struggling utlilityman Johan Camargo to Triple-A. The Braves aren’t considering shortening their bullpen to make room for Inciarte, meaning a bench player would need to be jettisoned.

Riley could become a super sub, spelling regulars in the corner infield and outfield. That’s much less appealing to Inciarte, but given not only how Riley has played, but for his development moving forward, it almost goes without saying that Riley won’t be returning to Triple-A.

However it unfolds, Inciarte’s injury and Riley’s breakout have made for an intriguing first-half subplot of the Braves’ season.

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