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Braves Release Jose Bautista, But Austin Riley Will Wait

ATLANTA—The Jose Bautista era in Atlanta is over. The Austin Riley era will have to wait.

Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos announced Sunday morning that the team had granted Bautista his unconditional release. Righthander Lucas Sims was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett, and Johan Camargo will take over as the Braves everyday third baseman.

Bautista hit .143 with two home runs in 12 games with the Braves. The longtime outfielder signed a minor league deal with the Braves in mid-April to try and fill a need at third base, but he never got untracked and faced the prospect of dwindling playing time.

“We decided as a group we’re going to give Camargo a shot here, give him a run as the everyday guy, and knowing there wasn’t going to be at bats for Jose, that’s not fair to him, “Anthopoulos said. “So I talked to him last night, just talked through it with him, said we were going to go with Camargo and tried to decide what the best thing for him in his career was. I think we agreed, if there wasn’t going to be at-bats here or playing time for him here, that’s not right for him. We just kind of agreed to give him a chance to go find that playing time.”

Riley, the No. 43 prospect on BA's Top 100 Prospects list, has hit .306 with three home runs and 12 RBIs in 12 games with Gwinnett since his promotion from Double-A Mississippi. He is the No. 3 third base prospect in the game behind only Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Nick Senzel and has hit 29 home runs with 106 RBIs since the start of the 2017 season.

The Braves elected to give the 21-year-old more time in the minors, while acknowledging he’s not far off.

“With Austin, obviously we’re high on him. We’re excited about him, he’ll tell us when he’s ready,” Anthopoulos said. “If he performs and he gets hot, that’s a good problem to have. You can never have too many good players. If Austin can show us that he’s ready, we’d love to be in that spot where we have a tough decision that we have too many good players.”

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Camargo, a three-time Braves Top 30 prospect himself, has hit just .226 this year, but with nearly as many walks (13) as strikeouts (14) and a .368 on-base percentage.

After primarily playing shortstop while Dansby Swanson was on the disabled list with left wrist inflammation, Camargo will slide over to the hot corner, where he mostly played last year.

“As a group, from the manager and the coaching staff and so on, everyone feels like this is the right move, going with Camargo,” Anthopoulos said. “I know he had everyday at-bats when Dansby was out, and now that Dansby was back, as we went through our review it was apparent to us that he deserves a shot. We’ll see where that goes, we’re not locked into any time frame, but there’s a lot of good indicators.”

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