March 17, 2021 –
BY KEVIN MCALPIN
680 THE FAN – With a little less than two weeks left in Spring Training, the battle for the final spot or two on the bench is starting to really pick up steam. Veterans like Jason Kipnis, Pablo Sandoval and Jake Lamb joined incumbent candidates like Johan Camargo and Ender Inciarte, while veteran infielder Ehire Adrianza is looking to make a late push. While the team hasn’t announced their plans for how many pitchers and position players they will carry once the Opening Day lineup is revealed, they have discussed internally the possibility of adding an extra bat to start the year with early off days giving them the luxury of only having to carry four starters in the early going.
When it comes to Kipnis, this is new territory for a guy that is used to coming to camp knowing he will be on the Opening Day roster. “It’s just part of the gig” said Jason Kipnis on Tuesday. “Sometimes when you hear guys competing for spots, you have a good guess of who it might be. Right now, it just doesn’t feel like anyone knows and it’s bringing the best out of everyone” Kipnis added when it comes to the competition. Brian Snitker admitted earlier this week that with how many options they have when it comes to bench positions and relievers, it’s a good problem to have. But, that doesn’t make those conversations any easier when you have to tell guys they didn’t make the cut.
As far as the main position battle that has everyone’s attention this spring, it certainly appears as though Cristian Pache has all but solidified himself as the teams Opening Day centerfielder. His case was briefly strengthened last week as Ender Inciarte battled a sore thumb. But Inciarte has returned and, barring a last minute trade, is looking like he will find himself on Brian Snitker’s bench and late inning defensive replacement for Marcell Ozuna in the eighth and ninth innings.
Kevin McAlpin has covered the Braves since 2012 for @680TheFan and the @BravesRadioNet.