Braves release slumping Bautista, Camargo to play 3B

(AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)

ATLANTA (AP) The Atlanta Braves have released Jose Bautista a month after picking up the veteran slugger and will make Johan Camargo their starting third baseman.

General manager Alex Anthopolous said the team made the decision Saturday before Camargo drove in two runs in an 8-1 win over Miami. Camargo, a switch-hitter, will play every day.

The 37-year-old Bautista hit .143 with two homers and five RBIs in 12 games with the Braves after having his contract purchased from Triple-A Gwinnett. The six-time All-Star struck out 12 times in 35 at-bats.

"We agreed, for him, if there wasn't going to be at-bats here and there wasn't going to be playing time here, that it was not right for him," Anthopolous said Sunday.

Bautista played outfield during most of his 14-year career, but the Braves signed him to a minor league contract last month, hoping the former Toronto star could add depth to the National League's top-scoring offense and shore up third base.

Camargo, a 24-year-old from Panama, was the front-runner to win the job in spring training before suffering an oblique injury that sidelined him for the first 16 games. Utility man Ryan Flaherty began the season at third base and briefly led the NL in hitting, but the Braves were hoping that Camargo would ultimately pass him and Bautista.

Camargo has a .284 career average with six homers and 40 RBIs in 106 games. He filled in at shortstop and didn't hit that well when Dansby Swanson missed 13 games with left wrist inflammation, but he is hitting .292 in his last 24 at-bats and is an upgrade defensively over Bautista.

"If you look at the surface stats - when Dansby was out they weren't all that good - the more that we looked at some things, there were some really good indicators that he might be able to perform a lot better than that," Anthopolous said. "Some exit velocities, bad luck and things like that. Some of the decision making was very good on his part."

The Braves recalled right-hander Lucas Sims from Triple-A Gwinnett to replace Bautista on the roster.

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Updated May 20, 2018