LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Braves manager Brian Snitker had given plenty of indications or hints that Dansby Swanson would bat second and newcomer Brandon Phillips would move into the middle of the order, and when lineup was posted for Saturday’s Grapefruit League opener there were no surprises.
That’s how it was laid out, with rookie phenom Swanson moving up to the second spot, between incumbent leadoff hitter Ender Inciarte and the entrenched duo of Freddie Freeman in the third spot and Matt Kemp batting cleanup. Swanson batted near the bottom of the order for most games after he was called up in August.
Nick Markakis was back in the fifth spot Saturday, where he thrived last season after the Braves acquired Kemp at the trade deadline. Phillips moves into the sixth spot.
For the Braves, it’s arguably the most-balanced or well-slotted first six they’ve had in several years, in terms of having a legitimate leadoff hitter followed by a handful of hitters whose skills firt the archetype for the slots they’re in.
Another big plus in the arrangement: Snitker is able to alternate left-handed and right-handed batters through that first six, beginning with the lefty-hitting Inciarte.
The bottom three in the order Saturday had all right-handed hitters: third baseman Adonis Garcia batting seventh followed by catchers Tyler Flowers and Kurt Suzuki, with Flowers in the designated-hitter role batting eighth.
The Braves will use the DH for approximately the first 10 games of the spring-training schedule, as they’ve done in the past. Most other teams will do the same or similar in the National League.
After about 10 games, when Braves starting pitchers have worked up to about four innings, they will begin hitting. Snitker wants to make sure his pitchers hit and work on bunting in games, regardless of whether another team decides to use the DH beyond the first 10 or so Grapefruit League games.
If the Braves play lefty hitter Jace Peterson at thrid base, as they are expected to do at times, they could bat him seventh and go lefty-righty alternating through the first eight spots in the order.
Snitker, entering his first spring training as a major league manager, said he would get his regulars a couple of at-bats in the opener and would use some of them in each of the first two Grapefruit League games, both at home. The Braves play the Astros on Sunday.
Bartolo Colon was set to make his Braves debut with a start Saturday against Teheran, and Julio Teheran will start Sunday against Houston.
Braves lineup Saturday
1. Ender Inciarte CF
2. Dansby Swanson SS
3. Freddie Freeman 1B
4. Matt Kemp LF
5. Nick Markakis RF
6. Brandon Phillips 2B
7. Adonis Garcia 3B
8. Tyler Flowers DH
9. Kurt Suzuki C
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