Olney: Braves embrace the instant impact of Austin Riley, power prodigy

Austin Riley's is a name, face, prospect, and future star Braves fans should be familiar with for years to come. Jason Getz/USA Today Sports

ST. LOUIS -- Austin Riley quietly made his way to the locker assigned to him in the visitors clubhouse here Saturday, trailed by a couple of members of the media, and when he started to answer questions about his remarkable first days in the big leagues, his voice was hushed.

Teammates were all around the room, but Riley kept his responses so low that there's no way other members of the Atlanta Braves could hear him. In the midst of the interview, a member of the Braves' support staff walked over to grab something from the locker adjacent to Riley's, and Riley quickly asked him, "Need me to move?"

He carries himself like a guest who doesn't want to bother anybody, or accidentally offend with anything he says or does, or leave the impression that he's trying to call attention to himself.

But that politeness disappears when Riley's in the batter's box, when he's swinging a bat and wrecking opponents. In his first 11 games since being summoned from the minors, Riley is hitting .341 with two doubles, five homers and 13 RBIs. In San Francisco on Thursday, he clubbed a game-tying two-run homer in the eighth inning, and then beat the Giants with a 13th-inning single to the opposite field. Riley was promoted to the big leagues after Ender Inciarte went on the injured list, but he figures to stay even after Inciarte returns because of the power and the right-handed balance he provides for the Atlanta lineup. The Braves play the Cardinals on Sunday Night Baseball, having won eight of the 11 games since Riley's promotion.

For Atlanta, it's payoff for its evaluation of Riley when he was a high school senior. He had played shortstop and pitched for coach Mark Monaghan at DeSoto Central High School in Southaven, Mississippi, not far from Memphis. But Riley was big and there was sentiment among a lot of scouts that he had a better future as a pitcher.