LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – The much-anticipated Ozzie Albies spring debut is set for Thursday against the Yankees, after the Braves second-base prospect was cleared to play by Dr. James Andrews.
It will be the first game for Albies, 20, since he fractured the olecranon bone at the tip of his right elbow while swinging the bat in a Double-A playoff game in early September.
“He got cleared, so we’ll get him in there tomorrow,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said after getting the medical report from Albies’ Wednesday visit with Andrews. “The doctors cleared him. There’s nothing more we can do with him (to prepare him to play), he’s done the live (batting practice sessions), the conditioning, the ground balls, everything.
“He’s ready to play, so we’ll get him out there tomorrow.”
One of the top-rated prospects in baseball, Albies won the Southern League batting title with a .321 average and .848 OPS in 82 games during two stints for Double-A Mississippi, sandwiched around a 59-game stretch at Triple-A Gwinnett in which he hit .248 with a .659 OPS. At 19, he was the youngest player in each league.
Albies had a combined .292 average and .778 OPS with 49 extra-base hits (10 triples, six homers) and 30 stolen bases in 618 plate appearances for the season, and showed enough before his injury that the Braves were considering having him compete for the opening-day second base job at 2017 spring training. After the injury and surgery, the diminutive (5-foot-8) but muscular Curacao native couldn’t work out for four months.
Because of Albies’ injury, the Braves signed veteran Sean Rodriguez in November to be their primary second baseman until Albies was ready. After Rodriguez had shoulder surgery last month for injuries from a January 28 car accident, the Braves traded for former Gold Glove second baseman Brandon Phillips, 35, who’s in the final year of his contract.