Preview: Marlins try to avoid letdown vs. struggling Braves

TV: FOX Sports Florida

TIME: Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET


ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Braves have started 24 players at third base since Chipper Jones retired after the 2013 season, including nine this season.

The most recent is four-time Gold Glove second baseman Brandon Phillips, who is now the regular at the hot corner as the Braves get a look at top infield prospect Ozzie Albies at second.

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Phillips, whose other game at third before this week came in 2001 at Double-A, will see most of the time there this weekend during the Braves' home series with the Miami Marlins that starts Friday.

Feeling that the 20-year-old Albies was ready to join the team, the Braves shopped Phillips before the Monday non-waiver trade deadline. However, they found no takers for the 36-year-old veteran despite his solid season.

A waiver deal remains a possibility, but Phillips, in his final season before free agency, has 12 teams on his no-trade list.

With Freddie Freeman moving back to his normal position at first base, third was open again and that is where the Braves feel Phillips helps their lineup right now.

"The guy is a ballplayer, and he wants to play," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "I'm glad. It will be good for us to have him over there."

Phillips, who is batting .286, was 1-for-10 in his first two starts at third base, but he made a nice catch Thursday.

"His hands, reaction and arm play pretty well over there," Snitker said. "So going forward as he continues his career, this can do nothing but help him."

The Braves survived Freeman's seven-week absence caused by a broken wrist, going 24-20, but they have struggled after his return with the bullpen faltering and clutch hits lacking.

Freeman, who volunteered to play third to keep Matt Adams in the lineup at first, made just one error there in 16 games. Still, he obviously is more comfortable at his normal position, and the Braves are no longer in position to make a run at a wild-card spot.

The Braves (49-58) are4-13 since reaching .500 at 45-45. They trail second-place Miami (51-55) by 2 1/2 games in the National League East despite winning five of eight games against the Marlins this season.

Miami, which was idle Thursday, took its fourth straight series by winning two of three from NL East-leading Washington at home this week. The Marlins are 9-4 during their uptick.

Veteran knuckleball pitcher R.A. Dickey (6-7, 4.01 ERA) will to start the series opener for the Braves against young left-hander Adam Conley (4-3, 5.11), who has played a part in the Marlins' recent improvement.

Conley is 2-0 with a 1.74 ERA in three starts since being recalled from Triple-A New Orleans in mid-July. Before his demotion in May, he was 2-3 with a 7.53 ERA.

"The biggest thing is getting ahead of guys," Conley said. "It's hard to pitch in this league when you're behind in the count."

Marlins manager Don Mattingly said, "I love his pace because he keeps everyone working. He seems to like to work at that pace, and obviously it's working."

Conley goes into his first start against the Braves this year having had success in the past against them. He was 2-0 with 0.98 ERA in three starts versus Atlanta last year and is 3-0 with a 2.73 ERA vs. the Braves in five career outings.

Dickey, who had a 2.70 ERA in July, has pitched well of late in his first season with the Braves, allowing one or no runs in six of his past eight starts. He is 10-3 with a 2.94 ERA in his long career against the Marlins.

Homers were a problem early for the 42-year-old, but he has allowed only two since June 19 over 50 2/3 innings.