WASHINGTON – Hector Olivera was a late scratch from the Braves lineup for Sunday's series finale against the Nationals due to a bruised left foot, after fouling a ball off it during Saturday night's game.
It’s been a rather uneventful first week in the majors for the ballyhooed Cuban third baseman, once the excitement of his much-anticipated debut Tuesday had dissipated.
The 30-year-old rookie was 2-for-15 with two singles, three RBIs, one walk and five strikeouts in his first five major league games (four starts), including 1-for-4 with two strikeouts in Saturday’s 8-2 loss to the Nationals, the 11th consecutive defeat for the Braves.
Adonis Garcia replaced Olivera at third base in Sunday’s lineup, batting sixth. Olivera had been penciled in at the second spot in the original lineup, his after batting in the sixth or seventh spot in the lineup in his first four starts.
The Braves acquired Olivera in a complicated three-team trade with the Dodgers and Marlins on July 30, with the Braves sending to the Dodgers left-handed starter Alex Wood, relievers Jim Johnson and lefty Luis Avilan, and top prospect Jose Peraza. The Braves also got from the Dodgers in that deal injured lefty reliever Paco Rodriguez, who could pitch at some point in September and should be a significant part of next year’s bullpen, and minor league pitcher Zachary Bird.
But the deal was made by the Braves to get Olivera, who they believe can become a .280-.290 hitter with perhaps 20 or more homers per season in the majors. He’s under contract for five more seasons, with the Braves owing him about $32 million in that period.
Olivera, the subject of a bidding war last winter between at least five teams – the Braves among them – signed a six-year, $62.5 million deal with the Dodgers that included a $28 million signing bonus, which the Dodgers are paying in full. He missed all of spring training as negotiations dragged on, then pulled a hamstring just before he was to have been called up from Triple-A by the Dodgers, forcing him to miss another six weeks, the period during which he was traded.
On Aug. 26, Braves president of baseball operations John Hart discussed expectations for Olivera and how the team didn’t think he’d make his full impact until next season.
“We knew when we made the deal that he hadn’t been able to play for a period of time,” Hart said. “He hurts his hamstring, his baseball activities got shut down. This is a guy that I think was ready to play (before the injury). He hadn’t played a lot in the year leading up to (this), in the year he was defecting he didn’t participate a lot. Then he’s out for basically all winter doing showcases and workouts. Then when he finally signed, he didn’t get over here till May.He got back in the fray, he didn’t ever have a spring training, and he gets hurt.
“Physically he looks great. It’s just the day-to-day grind that he hasn’t done…. He probably isn’t going to be fully the same guy we’re going to see next year.”
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