Braves make apparent SS decision; Díaz focusing on Reds role
By STEPHEN HAWKINS
The Atlanta Braves have apparently decided who will replace the departed Dansby Swanson as their starting shortstop. It's not who most people expected it to be.
Vaughn Grissom and Braden Shewmake were optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett on Monday. That leaves utility infielder Orlando Arcia as the likely replacement for Swanson, who left the Braves in free agency during the offseason for a $177 million, seven-year deal with the Chicago Cubs.
Atlanta announced the moves involving Grissom and Shewmake after a 6-5 exhibition win over the Tampa Bay Rays. Grissom, who had been widely anticipated to be Swanson's successor, went 3 for 4 in the game with an RBI and run scored, raising his batting average to .371 in 12 games this spring.
Arcia appeared in only one game at shortstop for the Braves last season, when he made 43 starts at second base and hit .244 in 67 games overall. He hasn't been a primary shortstop since starting 59 games in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season for Milwaukee, which traded him to the Braves the following April.
The 22-year-old Grissom made his big league debut last season by hitting .291 with five home runs and 18 RBIs in 41 games for the Braves. He started 39 games at second base and one at shortstop.
Arcia and Grissom were needed so much at second base last year because Ozzie Albies missed much of the season with two injuries - a broken foot and finger.
Swanson, the first overall pick in the 2012 draft, debuted with the Braves in 2016 and hit .255 in 827 games over eight seasons. He hit .277 while playing in 162 games last season.
Shewmake, a first-round pick by the Braves in the 2019 amateur draft, is still looking to make his big league debut.
DIAZ ‘DOWN FROM THAT MOMENT’
Alexis Díaz is now focusing on what is expected to a prominent role for him in the Cincinnati Reds bullpen after the shock of seeing his older brother get hurt while they played together for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic.
Edwin Díaz, the All-Star closer for the New York Mets, is expected to miss the entire season after surgery last week for a torn patellar tendon in his right knee. He was hurt while celebrating a WBC victory.
“In regards to my brother, it was tough,” Alexis Díaz said Monday at the Reds camp in Goodyear, Arizona. “I was there celebrating with him and I saw him fall to his knees afterward. ... The next couple days were really tough. We were supposed to have a grand old time. Seeing him in the locker room really put me down right after that.”
Alexis Díaz said he has been in communication with his brother through the whole process. He said his brother told him that he's good and will be coming back with a positive mentality.
“I feel better now,” the younger Díaz said. "I've kind of come down from that moment.”
Díaz was 7-3 with a 1.84 ERA in 59 games as a rookie for Cincinnati last season. He had 10 saves, seven of them after the start of August.
After spending some time with Díaz, manager David Bell said he is confident that the Reds reliever is going to be fine.
“It’s one thing when it’s your teammate, but it’s his brother. It is tough,” Bell said. "He seemed to be in a very good frame of mind. Emotionally, he’s fine and ready to get back to pitch.”
Braves right-hander Kyle Wright, baseball’s only 20-game winner last season, made his first Grapefruit League start.
He had stopped throwing for three weeks during the offseason after a cortisone injection in his shoulder in January.
Wright allowed five hits (two home runs) and four runs over 2 2-3 innings against Tampa Bay. He was on a pitch limit and departed after 49 pitches.
“I wasn’t very good,” Wright said, adding that he was making some adjustments during the outing when he didn't have any strikeouts or walks.
But what really mattered is that Wright said his shoulder felt great.
“We’ll see how it feels tomorrow. That will be the real test,” he said. “Everything is still trending in the right direction.”
Wright had a breakout season last year, going 21-5 with a 3.19 ERA in 30 starts. The 27-year-old was 2-8 in 21 games (14 starts) the previous four seasons combined for the Braves.
He is expected to make one more Grapefruit League start, then remain in Florida to pitch in a minor league game after the Braves break camp next week. Wright expressed confidence that he will be ready to pitch for Atlanta at St. Louis in the team's second series of the regular season.
Former first overall draft pick Mark Appel finally made his big league debut last season, just shy of his 31st birthday. The right-hander is now without a team again.
Appel was released Monday by the National League champion Philadelphia Phillies. He had an 11.12 ERA in six Grapefruit League appearances this spring, walking six and allowing three home runs over 5 2/3 innings.
Phillies manager Rob Thomson said Appel wasn't going to make the team and that the organization didn't have a spot for him in Triple-A.
The No. 1 pick by Houston in the 2013 draft out of Stanford, Appel got a $6.35 million signing bonus. He finally made his big league debut last June 29, and had a 1.74 ERA while throwing 10 1/3 innings in six appearances for the Phillies.
Appel made it to Triple-A for the Astros in 2015 before being sent to Philadelphia in a multiplayer trade. He decided to quit baseball after the 2017 season following injuries and ineffectiveness, but rejoined the Phillies organization in 2021.
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Updated March 21, 2023