Braves outfielder Ender Inciarte resumed baseball activities for the first time on Saturday since going on the injured list due to a lower back strain. Inciarte ran in the field and played catch prior to Saturday’s game according to a report by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Gabe Burns.
Brian Snitker told reporters before the game that Inciarte was starting his progression back but that the team wouldn’t rush him. He was reportedly still feeling the effects of the injury earlier this week.
Once Inciarte is ready to return though, it will present an interesting decision for the Braves. Austin Riley has exploded in place of Inciarte hitting .349/.388/.762 with eight home runs through his first 16 games. The defense in left field hasn’t always been spectacular but it has been good enough. More so, Riley has shown he is ready for the major league level and isn’t going back to Triple-A barring a shocking turn of events.
The Braves could elect to slide Inciarte into a bench role where he could serve as a left-handed bat off the bench and a late inning defensive replacement. For that to happen though, they would have to make a roster move with the most likely scenario being designating Matt Joyce for assignment or going with a short bullpen.
Inciarte has been out since May 14. He has appeared in 40 games while hitting .218/.300/.323 with two home runs.
Fortunately for the Braves this is a situation that they don’t have to worry about right now. Barring a setback, Inciarte is still likely several weeks away from being ready to head out on a rehab assignment. Still, it is something to keep an eye on and a situation that will have to be dealt with at some point this season.