Braves plan manager interviews with Black, Washington

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Monday, October 3, 2016

ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Braves are thrilled with the job that interim manager Brian Snitker did this season.

They're still going to look at other potential candidates to lead the team in 2017.

Less than 24 hours after the Braves finished a last-place season with a flourish, team president John Hart said former managers Bud Black and Ron Washington would be interviewed for the job, and other outside candidates may be considered as well.

That doesn't mean Snitker is out of the running.

"Brian Snitker did a tremendous job," Hart said Monday. "The year was spiraling out of control. He restored order."

The Braves won 50 of their last 97 games, including their finale at Turner Field on Sunday. The team is moving to a new stadium in the suburbs next season.

Atlanta was 9-28 when manager Fredi Gonzalez was fired and stood at 18-46 when it began a dramatic turnaround under Snitker.

Hart and general manager John Coppolella both said Snitker was a strong candidate to keep his job based on the way the team responded to his leadership.

Snitker even attended an end-of-the-year media session, insisting he's comfortable with the process and doesn't mind waiting for the Braves to make a decision.

"If I was them, I'd be doing the same thing," Snitker said.

Hart said it was imperative to look at all potential options before deciding who should be in the dugout for the first season at SunTrust Park.

Black spent nearly 8 1/2 years as San Diego's manager, going 649-713 before he was fired during the 2015 season. He had only two winning records and never led the Padres to the playoffs, though he was picked as NL Manager of the Year in 2010.

Black appeared to be in line for the Washington Nationals job going into this season, but negotiations broke down and Dusty Baker was hired instead.

Washington spent nearly eight seasons as Texas manager, guiding the Rangers to consecutive World Series appearances from 2010-11 and capturing a pair of AL Manager of the Year awards. He surprisingly resigned during the 2014 season, revealing later that he stepped down because he had been unfaithful to his wife of 42 years.

Washington spent the last two seasons as a coach with the Oakland Athletics, but his ties to Hart go back to when both worked for the Rangers.

"When you go outside and talk (to candidates), you learn things," Hart saId. "There are a lot of smart guys out there. It would be shame on us if we didn't take this opportunity to take a look at the landscape and get a feel for what people think about our club, our players."

In addition to Snitker, the Braves have also interviewed coaches Terry Pendleton, Eddie Perez and Bo Porter. But Coppolella seemed to rule them out when he said it was unlikely the team would hire someone with no managerial experience over Snitker, especially off his own coaching staff.

Besides the managerial search, here are some things to watch for as the Braves head into the offseason:


BIG SPENDERS: After several years cutting payroll and bulking up the farm system, the Braves plan to be a player in the free-agent market this winter. The team took on much of Matt Kemp's $21.75 million annual salary through 2019 in a midseason trade, and the move paid off handsomely. Kemp (35 HRs, 108 RBI) paired with slugger Freddie Freeman (.302, 34 HRs, 91 RBI) to lead Atlanta's resurgence. With the move to SunTrust Park and an expected boost in revenue, team owners have cleared the way for a payroll increase.

WHERE TO SPEND: The Braves are likely to go mostly for starting pitching. Julio Teheran has ace-like stuff, though a lack of run support left him with a 7-10 record. Mike Foltynewicz (9-5, 4.31 ERA) looks as though he's finally ready to hold down a spot in the rotation, and Matt Wisler (7-13, 5.00) showed flashes of potential but needs to be more consistent. Coppolella said the team is looking to add at least two new starting pitchers and maybe three for 2017.

STANDING PAT: The Braves are happy with their everyday lineup. Rookie shortstop Dansby Swanson is a star in the making, and Adonis Garcia (.273, 14 HRs, 65 RBI) returned from a stint in the minors to nail down the third base job. Tyler Flowers did a solid job at catcher, though the Braves would like to sign another veteran to share the job. Also keep an eye on second base, where top prospect Ozzie Albies is on the verge of breaking through, though a late-season injury in the minors could set him back.

THE BACK END: Jim Johnson agreed to a two-year contract extension on the final day of the regular season and will go into 2017 as the expected closer. His presence gives the Braves a chance to bring along some of their younger pitchers in less-stressful roles, including hard-throwing Mauricio Cabrera and Jose Ramirez. Former closer Arodys Vizcaino could be in the mix if he can bounce back from shoulder problems that shut him down this season.


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