CINCINNATI - After striking out four times in an 0-for-4 night Monday to drop his season average to .148, it wasn’t surprising to see that B.J. Upton was out of the leadoff spot Tuesday night in favor of Andrelton Simmons. It might have still been surprising to see him batting second, but Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said that was as much about who else he had available in Tuesday’s lineup.
“There’s nobody else in that lineup that’s going to hit second that is a baserunner, a guy that you can do something with (like bunt or hit and run),” Gonzalez said. “You can’t do that with (Juan) Francisco. It’s not (Brian) McCann, not (Evan) Gattis. I like Danny (Uggla) where he’s at, swinging the bat right now.”
The hope was maybe B.J. would get a few more pitches to hit in front of his brother Justin too. For now, Gonzalez said he’s just keeping an eye on Upton’s confidence level.
“As long as he’s battling and fighting…” Gonzalez said. “As a manager my biggest thing is make sure he’s OK confidence-wise and pump him up. I’m not going to sit there and talk to him about hands or toe tap or look at the ball this way. I’ll leave that to (hitting coaches Greg) Walker and (Scott Fletcher). My job is make sure mentally he’s OK and he is.”
Jason Heyward took batting practice for the second consecutive day Tuesday, including an extra 30 minutes of early hitting on the field. He continues to progress in his recovery from an appendectomy, but he and the Braves haven’t made plans for a minor league assignment yet because Heyward still feels a little tentative defensively.
“It felt fine, but it just didn’t feel as free and easy, didn’t feel as loose but that’s my first time running outside in 10 days,” Heyward said of his first action shagging flies and running in the outfield. “That’s what I need to do some more of. I feel like once I can go play some defense I’ll have had enough swings and enough running around on the field I can go play.”
Heyward plans to travel with the team to San Francisco and then likely head out on assignment from there or the next stop in Arizona. Gonzalez is not in a frame of mind to rush him. Heyward still wouldn’t be a month removed from surgery until May 20.
“For him just to miss a couple weeks, a month, is probably in the realm of the right time,” Gonzalez said. “I know there have been a couple guys who have been eight, nine, 10 days (out) but for the most part, it takes a while. You don’t know how it affects everybody.”