Posted on August 17, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Atlanta Braves remain atop the NL East standings, but their Injured List is beginning to get a little crowded. The latest to hit the 10-day IL is center fielder Ender Inciarte, who suffered a strained hamstring during Friday’s loss to the Dodgers. The injury could keep Inciarte out for the rest of the regular season, possibly longer. He joins fellow outfielders Nick Markakis and Austin Riley, as well as shortstop Dansby Swanson on the IL.
Inciarte hurt his hamstring while rounding 3rd base in the 2nd inning of Friday’s game. He was able to hop to home plate and score a run but was in obvious pain and was immediately removed from the game. The Braves wasted little time in adding him to the IL on Saturday, recalling Adam Duvall from triple-A to take his spot on the roster.
Unfortunately for Inciarte, this will be his second extended stint on the IL this season. He went on the IL in mid-May with a back issue and missed more than two months of action. Since his return, Inciarte has become an important contributor to Atlanta’s lineup. In those 25 games, he hit .293 with an OPS of .931. Inciarte has also won a Gold Glove in each of the last three seasons, providing the Braves with an elite defensive player in center field. His absence will be noted on both sides of the ball.
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“He’s been doing great and getting big hits,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said after Friday’s game. “It’s a tough loss when you lose guys up the middle.”
The injury to Inciarte leaves the Atlanta outfield even more short-handed than it was previously. As mentioned, both Riley and Markakis are also on the IL. Riley is dealing with a sprained knee that will keep him out at least two more weeks. Markakis, meanwhile, is recovering from a broken wrist and is probably another month away from returning.
Amidst the injuries, Ronald Acuna Jr. will be asked to move from left field to center field. He filled in there for Inciarte earlier this season but doesn’t have Inciarte’s Gold Glove track record. Meanwhile, the Braves will have to mix and match to fill the corner outfield spots until Riley and Markakis return.
Duvall and Matt Joyce should get a majority of the playing time. Both have been suitable replacements this season but nothing more. Utility man Charlie Culberson and journeyman outfielder Rafael Ortega are both options as well. Culberson is an intriguing option, having performed well offensively in a part-time role this year. Also, he will be needed less at shortstop in Swanson’s place with the Braves recently signing Adeiny Hechavarria to fill in until Swanson can return.
Even with a fair amount of depth, the Braves should be concerned about the rash of injuries in their outfield. Inciarte, in particular, makes a positive impact both offensively and defensively, making him more difficult to replace than Riley and Markakis. Atlanta’s lead atop the NL East has slipped to 4.5 games entering Saturday. The Braves still have a long way to go to wrap up their second straight division title, and injuries are making things a lot more difficult for Atlanta to secure their spot in the postseason.