The Braves made a series of roster moves Friday upon signing shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, including optioning utilityman Johan Camargo and outfielder Adam Duvall to Triple-A Gwinnett.
In doing so, the Braves tweaked two spots in their lineup. Hechavarria replaces Camargo in the infield, improving the team’s defense while regular shortstop Dansby Swanson remains on the injured list with a heel issue.
Duvall had become an every-day outfielder since he was promoted to replace Nick Markakis, whose fractured wrist will keep him out at least until mid-September. Rookie Austin Riley, who’s played mostly in the outfield this season, also is out until September with a partially torn LCL in his right knee.
The Braves had been relatively healthy most of the season. In keeping with the rains-it-pours cliché, the injuries came in bunches.
Their outfield situation has transformed into Ronald Acuna, Ender Inciarte and one of Matt Joyce or Rafael Ortega, the latter of whom recently joined the team from Triple-A. Joyce has performed admirably as a last-second pickup before opening day, though few would refute a Joyce-Ortega combo as a weak point of a first-place club.
But Duvall had become ineffective since his scorching start. He’s hit .130/.216/.217 across 14 games this month. Like Camargo, Duvall has options remaining. The team elected to send him to Triple-A, likely until September, while playing Ortega, who’s out of options.
“They had options, which are important this time of year when limited with what you can add,” manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s a situation where you want to keep as much depth as you can in the organization because you don’t know where the need is going to be.”
General manager Alex Anthopoulos added: “The scenario with Duvall was that Ortega is out of options. Left-handed hitting outfielder. Depth-wise, if we DFA Ortega, put him on waivers, he could elect free agency or get claimed. Duvall has options. Obviously Johan is the same way. We get to keep our depth.”
Ortega, 28, has appeared in 111 games since his debut in 2012. He put together a strong season in Gwinnett, hitting .285 while leading the International League with 34 doubles, 58 extra-base hits and 83 runs. He also hit a career-best 21 homers.
Now, the Braves hope Ortega, alongside Joyce, can hold down the third outfield spot until September. The team has already seen its deep lineup dwindle, which is where such depth proves vital.
Swanson is “progressing,” but the team doesn’t have an estimated return date. Snitker anticipates playing Hechavarria regularly at shortstop until Swanson is healthy. Camargo, meanwhile, will play every day in non-pressure situations in Triple-A.
The Braves searched for the right time to demote Camargo, who’s flailed through his worst season in the majors. Hechavarria’s availability, paired with Camargo’s increased struggles in the past two weeks, made Friday the logical time.
“We talked to him about going down, getting his regular at-bats and getting his timing back,” Anthopoulos said. “He’s still a young man with all the ability in the world. He should get back to what he was.
Snitker added: “Hopefully he can get his game back. He wasn’t the same kid we remembered. It’s not an easy role, coming into spring training after you’d been the every-day third baseman and had a good year. It’s tough to ask. But that being said, you still have to adjust, adapt and be ready to go. He wasn’t playing like we know he can.”