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Jose Bautista close to MLB debut with Braves

Bautista spent the past two days playing for Class A Advanced Florida

Jose Bautista has made a strong impression since signing a Minor League deal with the Braves last week. The right-handed slugger will join Triple-A Gwinnett on Monday and could possibly join Atlanta's lineup at some point within the week.

"The reports are really good -- defensively, offensively, how he's playing the game, the shape he's in," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "I think that's what blows everybody away, the shape that he is in. He's in good baseball shape. It's just a matter of timing and getting him to Triple-A to see a little better pitching."

Bautista spent the past two days playing for Class A Advanced Florida. He'll be promoted in time to play both ends of Triple-A Gwinnett's doubleheader against Rochester on Monday at Frontier Field. From there, the Braves will assess his progress and get a better feel of when he might be ready to spend some time as Atlanta's third baseman.

Though he was forced to make his own preparations as he went through the entire offseason unsigned, Bautista reported to the Braves' Spring Training facility last week and provided clear indications he had not just been sitting around waiting for an opportunity.

Bautista has not regularly played third base over the past decade, but Braves infield instructor Adam Everett has been encouraged by what he has seen thus far. The two-time American League Hank Aaron Award winner went 1-for-3 for Florida on Saturday and then went 1-for-4 with a double in Sunday's game.

Bautista's arrival could further diminish opportunities for Johan Camargo to be in the starting lineup. Camargo was lined up to be Atlanta's starting third baseman before he strained his right oblique muscle two weeks before the start of the regular season. Since returning from the disabled list on Thursday, Camargo has been primarily used off the bench. He made the most of his only start on Saturday, when he delivered a game-tying ninth-inning triple and then scored moments later on Ender Inciarte's game-ending bunt single.

Ryan Flaherty has significantly exceeded expectations as he has produced a strong .362 batting average through the season's first three weeks. But he may soon be sharing the third-base position with Bautista.

Camargo hit .299 and produced a .783 OPS over 82 games with Atlanta last year. But the Braves have seemingly made it clear they believe he would be best utilized as a versatile offensive and defensive bench piece.

"I'm not playing a lot, but when I play, I just want to contribute to the team," Camargo said. "When they give me the opportunity, I'm going to enjoy it."

By Mark Bowman | MLB.com

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