ATLANTA (AP) — The Braves are giving another top prospect his shot, recalling Austin Riley from Triple-A Gwinnett on Wednesday after a dominating start in the International League.
While normally a third baseman, Riley recently started three straight games in left field for the minor league team. That’s where he was set to play in his big league debut, batting sixth for Atlanta’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Riley was hitting .299 and leading the International League with 15 homers and 39 RBIs. A roster spot opened when center fielder Ender Inciarte was placed on the 10-day injured list with a sore back.
He realized the logjam he was behind due to third baseman Josh Donaldson and first baseman Freddie Freeman.
“I had no clue,” Riley said before the game. “I was kind of waiting my turn. I hate Ender went down last night, but I’m happy to be here and hopefully I can help out.”
Ronald Acuna Jr. will move over to play center field, giving Riley a chance to get extensive time in left. He also can play third base when Donaldson needs a day off.
The 22-year-old Riley was a first-round pick in 2015 and joins a Baby Braves lineup that already includes the 21-year-old Acuna, the 2018 NL Rookie of the Year, 22-year-old second baseman Ozzie Albies and 25-year-old shortstop Dansby Swanson.
Donaldson has a one-year contract, and the promotion of Riley gives the Braves a chance to see whether he is ready to take over at third base on a full-time basis next season.
He certainly looked like he was prepared during his time at Gwinnett, hitting 13 homers in his last 18 games — including four multi-homer performances. With Inciarte hitting just .218, there’s a chance Riley could be in Atlanta for the long term even if third base is not yet open.
“I felt good down in Triple-A,” Riley said. “I was swinging the bat well. I worked on a few things, cut down on my strikeouts, made more consistent contact, brought the walks up a little bit. That was the goals I was going for.”
Riley said he’s felt comfortable in left field during his handful of appearances.
“Going from third base to the outfield is little bit more relaxing,” he said. “Everything kind of slows down a little bit. It’s not bad.”
The Braves also designated struggling reliever Jesse Biddle for assignment. The left-hander was let go after surrendering three runs in one-third of an inning Tuesday night in a 14-3 loss to the Cardinals.
Biddle, a former top prospect with the Phillies who was out of options, pitched well out of the Braves’ bullpen in 2018, going 6-1 with a 3.11 ERA and one save in 60 appearances. But he struggled with his control this season, surrendering 10 walks in 11 2/3 innings, and had a 5.40 ERA in 15 appearances.
“He’s going to have an opportunity somewhere else,” manager Brian Snitker said. “He had a good year for us last year. But that was last year. He’s had some struggles. It was hard to cover it up and get him going.”
Right-hander Touki Toussaint was recalled from Gwinnett to work mainly in long relief. He’s 2-0 with a 6.35 ERA in three previous appearances with the Braves this season.
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