ATLANTA — The Braves’ commitment to giving Vaughn Grissom a chance to win the starting job at shortstop can’t be questioned.
The Braves, who must replace Dansby Swanson, initially scheduled Grissom for three offseason visits with third-base coach Ron Washington for intense field practice, each lasting at least a week.
On Saturday, manager Brian Snitker said he hadn’t even considered giving Grissom a chance to compete for game time in left field this spring. Snitker and the Braves want Grissom to spend all his time at the shortstop.
Then Grissom was included with other celebrity players who were made available to reporters at Saturday’s Braves Fest for fans. Projected starters at all positions except left field took turns in the media interview room. Grissom was the only shortstop on the list.
Grissom started 39 games at second base as a substitute for the injured Ozzie Albies and only one game as shortstop last season. At 6ft 3 and 210lbs, Grissom has a tall physique for a shortstop and some doubt his defense will be strong enough to hold the job.
He hit .271 with eight homers and 32 RBI in 251 at-bats last season, exhausting his rookie status.
Washington, the 70-year-old former Texas Rangers manager who is respected for his defensive drills, volunteered to work with Grissom off-season and has assured the Braves he will have Grissom ready by the start of the season.
“That’s probably one of the most valuable pieces I have in my life right now, to be able to bounce things off him,” Grissom said of Washington.
Said Snitker: “[Washington] was like, ‘Let me have the kid for three different times.’ It was great that Vaughn took his winter time and went there and saw the value in it. It will be good. He’ll definitely have a leg up to come to spring training and have all of that.”
Washington and Grissom have already held two week-long training sessions in New Orleans. Another week of practice is planned before the Braves pitchers and catchers report for spring practice in North Port, Fla. on February 13, followed by the positioners three days later.
Grissom, 22, will take on Orlando Arcia to replace Swanson, who has signed a seven-year, $177 million deal with the Chicago Cubs.
Snitker left open the possibility that Grissom and Arcia could share the job.
“We’re going to be fine,” Snitker said. “We will use the sum of our parts to make it happen. I think those are two really good options that we could probably combine without abusing either of these guys and have a really good product.”
In other news, RHP said Mike Soroka, who is attempting a comeback from his second torn right hamstring, and he expects to have no limitations as spring training begins. He will fight for fifth place in the rotation.