You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks


Welcome to

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on

Braves won’t rush Mallex Smith

Mallex Smith tripled to lead off Triple-A Gwinnett’s season opener Thursday at Norfolk, struck out in two of his next three at-bats, and hit a bloop double in the ninth inning.

It was a fairly representative glance at the game right now of the Braves’ center-field prospect, whose blazing speed and other significant skills, though still a bit raw, make him one of the more exciting prospects in the organization.

Which is another reason that acquiring center fielder Ender Inciarte from Arizona as part of the December trade for Shelby Miller is looking so good right now for the Braves.

Because on top of playing Gold Glove-caliber defense and hitting for average, Inciarte eliminates the temptation to rush Smith, an ex-high school football star who’ll turn 23 in May and hasn’t played as much baseball as most prospects his age.

That is, as long as Inciarte stays healthy — he left Friday’s game in the first inning with soreness in his left hamstring and his status was listed as day-to-day. Drew Stubbs, an end-of-spring-training signee, replaced Inciarte in center Friday.

Eventually, the Braves will have to decide whether to move Inciarte or Smith to a corner-outfield spot. But not right now.

“It’s a problem, but you know what makes it a lot easier for me is that you don’t (need to) hurry on Mallex Smith,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “All of a sudden he becomes a guy where you say, we can take our time developing you and let you play the game and become a finished product before running him up here. Because if you have to run him up here (before he’s ready) all of a sudden he’s getting picked off, he’s over-sliding bases or throwing to the wrong cutoff, and he’s not ready.

“Having Inciarte here, makes that situation where he can develop himself into a good major leaguer when he comes up here.”

It was generally assumed during spring training that Smith, who had two triples in the first inning of his first Grapefruit League start and hit .346 in major-league camp, would be up in the big leagues by summer. But after watching Inciarte flash his considerable defensive skills in the first couple of games, and after hearing Gonzalez talk about Smith’s situation, it doesn’t sound as if it’s a given Smith will be up that soon.

“In spring training you watch these two young men play,” Gonzalez said, “and you’re going, OK, you’ve got a polished major league player in Inciarte, who’s an old guy at 25 (Gonzalez smiles). And you’ve got this young kid who’s coming up and you know what? We can take our time with him and develop him the right way, polish his game.

“And when he’s up here he’ll be more ready to play in the big leagues and ready to stay. Now, when is that timetable? Who knows. He’ll let us know (by his performance).”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Atlanta Braves

Former Brave Keith Lockhart’s son hospitalized after hit in face with baseball
Former Brave Keith Lockhart’s son hospitalized after hit in face with baseball

The son of former Atlanta Braves second baseman Keith Lockhart has been placed on life support after he was hit in the face by a baseball, according to media reports. Jason Lockhart, 15, was hit Saturday, June 17, during a baseball tournament in South Carolina as he touched home plate. The catcher was throwing the ball back to the pitcher when...
Brewers blank Braves as Teheran struggles again at home
Brewers blank Braves as Teheran struggles again at home

Braves right-hander Julio Teheran’s fastball velocity is down a tick, hitters don’t swing and miss it a lot and when they make contact it’s a fly ball a relatively high percentage of the time. All of those things have been true for a while with Teheran but now he’s playing home games at SunTrust Park, where pitchers with that...
Matt Kemp returns to Braves lineup
Matt Kemp returns to Braves lineup

Braves left fielder Matt Kemp returned to the lineup on Sunday after missing two games because of a sore left hamstring. Kemp initially wasn’t in the lineup announced by the Braves but was added later in place of Danny Santana. Kemp left Thursday’s game because of what the Braves said was tightness in his left hamstring. Kemp sat out a...
Braves have shot at Atlanta record for runs scored in June
Braves have shot at Atlanta record for runs scored in June

With five games remaining in June the Braves are within distance of the Atlanta franchise record for runs scored in the month. The Braves have scored 128 runs over 23 games in June, tied with the Diamondbacks for fourth-most in the majors. The 1976 Braves hold the Atlanta franchise record for runs scored in June with 159 over 29 games. The Braves rank...
Another Phillips homer lifts Braves over Brewers
Another Phillips homer lifts Braves over Brewers

Brandon Phillips gave the Reds his OK to trade him to his hometown team this year. That decision is working so well for Phillips that he hopes the Braves will keep him around after this season. Phillips’ go-ahead, two-run home run in the third inning Saturday sent the Braves on their way to a 3-1 victory over the Brewers at SunTrust Park. It...
More Stories