Braves’ meager progress leaves Snitker’s status uncertain
ATLANTA (AP) — The Braves’ new ballpark was a hit.
The team’s new pitching staff is still under construction.
Another season of only minimal improvement has left Atlanta manager Brian Snitker’s status uncertain. The Braves have not said if they will exercise their 2018 option on his contract.
Snitker, who turns 62 on Oct. 17, says he doesn’t plan to retire. He has been with the organization since being hired as a roving instructor by Hank Aaron in 1981.
“I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished over the last 42 years,” Snitker said Sunday, adding he hopes to continue in some role with the team.
“If it’s still continue to manage this team, fine,” he said. “I’m not going to retire. I enjoy the game. I enjoy doing all this in whatever capacity.”
Braves president of baseball operations John Hart said he planned to meet with Snitker on Monday and could have a decision this week. Hart said that timetable would not be affected by Monday’s forced resignation of general manager John Coppolella, the target of a Major League Baseball investigation into a violation of rules in the international player market.
“Obviously, that will be my call as we move forward,” said Hart, who will take over GM duties while the team searches for a new one.
Atlanta was third in the NL East at 72-90 after coming in last with 68 wins in 2016. Clearly, Snitker and the Braves hoped for a better finish, especially after reaching .500 (45-45) in mid-July.
Much of the blame fell on a 4.72 ERA that ranked 12th among 15 NL teams.
Snitker said the progress of young players such as rookie infielders Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies and Johan Camargo meant there indeed was improvement.
“I think it’s grown just because of all the young guys who’ve been injected into the whole thing,” the manager said. “They’ve all grown, so consequently I think you’d have to say that the team has.”
Starters who too often failed to pitch deep into games put too much stress on the bullpen. Even right-hander Julio Teheran, expected to be the ace, had a 4.49 ERA, the highest of his career when appearing in more than five games.
Here are some things to know about the Braves’ 2017 season and outlook for 2018:
ACUNA IS COMING
The biggest attraction of spring training next year will be top prospect Ronald Acuna. The 19-year-old outfielder flourished at three levels, including Triple-A Gwinnett. He was selected minor league player of the year by Baseball America after hitting a combined .325 with 21 home runs, 82 RBIs and 44 stolen bases.
The team could trade Matt Kemp or Nick Markakis to create a corner outfield spot for Acuna.
The Braves drew 2,505,297 fans in their first season at SunTrust Park. It was a high mark for the team since its last playoff season in 2013. In 2016, the total at Turner Field was 2,020,914.
Ender Inciarte had 201 hits, becoming the first Braves player with 200 since Marquis Grissom in 1996. Freddie Freeman missed 44 games with a wrist injury and still batted .307 with 28 homers. Catchers Kurt Suzuki (19) and Tyler Flowers (12) combined for 31 homers. Arodys Vizcaino, 26, converted 14 of 17 save chances. A.J. Minter didn’t walk a batter in his first 13 appearances.
There were only mixed results from still-raw rookies such as Luiz Gohara, Sean Newcomb, Lucas Sims and Max Fried. Mike Foltynewicz also struggled at times in his first full season.
Sims, a first-round draft pick in 2012, was 3-6 with a 5.62 ERA.
“I still feel confident,” he said after allowing six runs in two innings of a 10-2 loss to the Marlins during his last start on Saturday night. “I still feel good with where I’m at.”
R.A. Dickey, 42, must decide if he wants to continue his career. He had a 4.26 ERA in 31 starts, adding much-needed stability to the young rotation.
AP Sports Writer Tim Reynolds in Miami contributed to this report.
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