Snitker likes Inciarte in CF with Smith in lineup

Interim manager sees former as 'more advanced' at position

Snitker likes Inciarte in CF with Smith in lineup

ATLANTA -- Braves interim manager Brian Snitker appreciates the athleticism Mallex Smith offers as an outfielder. But moving forward, Snitker plans to position Ender Inciarte in center field whenever he is in the same lineup with Smith.

"Mallex can outrun anybody out there, but right now [Inciarte] is more advanced," Snitker said after he positioned Inciarte in center field and Smith in left for Tuesday night's series opener against the Brewers at Turner Field.

Former Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez preferred to have Smith in center field and Inciarte in left, but Snitker has realized over the past week that Inciarte's instincts and route efficiency trump the speed Smith attempts to use to overcome some of his occasional inefficient routes.

"We don't win that game [in Pittsburgh on Wednesday] if anybody else is out there playing [center field]," Snitker said. "[Inciarte] made two really nice plays, and in the 7-1 win [on Friday] in Philadelphia, he made a couple of really nice running plays out there, too."

Entering Tuesday, Smith had been awarded five Defensive Runs Saved over 246 2/3 innings as a center fielder. Inciarte had tallied four DRS while playing just 65 innings as a center fielder.

Inciarte's arm strength also makes him a comfortable option in right field, but Snitker said he does not have any imminent plan to ask Nick Markakis to transition from right field to left. This arrangement would obviously open the door for Smith to play center field when all three outfielders are in the same lineup.

Worth noting
• Manny Banuelos has completed his rehab process in extended spring training and will now join Triple-A Gwinnett. Banuelos, whose bothersome left elbow caused more discomfort during Spring Training, could make his first start for Gwinnett on Friday.

• Snitker said veteran right-handed reliever Jim Johnson could begin pitching in Minor League rehab games within the next week. Johnson has been on the disabled list since May 10 with a strained right groin muscle.

• The Braves remain hopeful that right-handed reliever Shae Simmons might join Atlanta's bullpen during the first week of June. Simmons has been sidelined since undergoing Tommy John surgery before the start of Spring Training in 2015.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.