Braves manager expects Jose Bautista to be everyday third baseman

Former Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista. (Tony Gutierrez/AP)

Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker said that Jose Bautista will be the team’s everyday third baseman when he gets called up from a minor-league assignment.

“He’s going to play third when he comes up,” Snitker said according to Gabriel Burns of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He’s in good shape. That’d be what happens.”

Ryan Flaherty is currently playing third base for the Braves. Although he’s leading the National League with a .362 average, Snitker suggested he’d prefer to use Flaherty in a utility role similar to the one the 31-year-old has played in recent seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, according to Burns.

Bautista, 37, signed a minor-league deal with the Braves on April 18 after spending the last nine seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays. When he gets called up to the majors, he will be playing on a one-year, $1-million contract according to The Associated Press.

After signing with the Braves, Bautista reported to high-A Florida, where he went 2-for-7 with a double in two games last week. The Braves promoted Bautista to triple-A Gwinnett where he’s expected to be in the lineup Monday.

“From what I’ve heard, he’s close,” Snitker said. “I think he needs to see some better pitching right now, in his eyes. That’s why he’s going to triple-A.”

Snitker said that from what he’s been told, Bautista is in great shape and shouldn’t need much more time in the minors, although he’s not expected to get called up until at least after the team’s current road trip to Cincinnati.

“Nothing but good reports on what they’re seeing defensively, offensively, running the bases well,” Snitker said. “Obviously the guy’s done a lot in his preparation to stay in shape. He’s in the best possible shape that he can. That’s what I’ve heard too. That he’s a very well-conditioned guy.”

Bautista had a disappointing season by his standards in 2017, slashing only .203/.308./.366 but still hit 23 home runs and 65 RBIs. It was Bautista’s eighth consecutive season of hitting 20 home runs or more.

The Braves are hoping he can provide some power to a lineup that only has one player with more than three home runs this season.

“I think a guy like that, with his experience, you’ve got to go with those guys too,” Snitker said. “He’s not coming off an injury. Reports are, his timing is good. He’s facing some velocity, swinging good off of it.”

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