DENVER – Braves center fielder Ender Inciarte was out of the lineup for only the third time all season and Lane Adams was in it for the first time in his major league career Tuesday night against the Rockies at Coors Field.
“I guess if you can play center here you can do it anywhere,” Adams said before batting practice, when asked about his first major league start coming in center field in the most spacious outfield in the majors. “Should be fun.”
Adams’ big night went well: No issues in center field, and 1-for-3 with a single and walk from the seventh spot in the lineup. He walked and scored on Dansby Swanson’s two-run double in the second inning of the Braves’ 4-3 win.
Manager Brian Snitker said before the game he wanted to give Inciarte a rest after he did a lot of running in Monday’s series opener at mile-high Coors Field both on the bases – he led off the game with a triple and was thrown out trying to stretch it to a home run – and in the spacious outfield.
Inciarte also fouled a pitch off the inside of his right heel Monday, which was bandaged Tuesday, but he said that wasn’t and concurred that it was just a day off.
Rookie second baseman Ozzie Adams was bumped up to leadoff spot Tuesday after batting seventh or eighth in all of his previous 12 major league games.
Inciarte started 18 consecutive games and 114 of the Braves’ 116 games before Tuesday, and began the day leading the major leagues in plate appearances (534) and at-bats (493). Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon (478) was the only player with more than 470 at-bats before Tuesday.
Inciarte has cooled in recent weeks, batting .268 with a .613 OPS in his past 22 games after hitting .306 with a .769 OPS in his first 93 games and making his first All-Star team.
Adams, a speedy 27-year-old rookie, had 41 plate appearances in 44 games for the Braves before Tuesday, but played in the field in only nine of those games after entering in the late innings as a pinch-hitter. He also played sparingly as a late-innings substitute in two of four games he entered with the Royals in 2014 in his only other major league experience.
Adams has been a pleasant surprise in a couple of call-ups from Triple-A with the Braves, batting .268 (11-for-41) with three doubles, a home run and a .721 OPS, including a .300 average (9-for-30) and .800 OPS against right-handers. He had been successful in all six of his stolen-base attempts.
What’s most impressive about his performance is how he’s adapted to pinch-hitting, a difficult assignment for any player but particularly inexperienced major leaguers who’ve never or rarely done the role in the past at any level. He’s 8-for-33 (.242) as a pinch-hitter with three extra-base hits including a homer.
Although Adams hasn’t played much outfield in the majors, he played it plenty in the minor leagues and excelled in center field at Gwinnett. He played parts of six major league games this season in left field, two in center (three innings) and one game in right before Tuesday’s start.
“He can go get it,” Snitker said. “You constantly read that in the reports (from minor league games) or making plays all over the place. And the way he runs, just let him roam out there today. It’s good for him to get a start; I think this is his first start since we’ve had him. He’s done a really good job pinch-hitting. Be good to get him some at-bats.”