For all the Braves fans and arm-chair managers who think Jason Heyward should be hitting third in the Braves lineup, they’ll get no argument from the Braves current No. 3 hitter.
Chipper Jones has hit third for almost his entire 15-year career, but he said given his lack of punch lately, he would understand if manager Bobby Cox wants to move rookie sensation Jason Heyward into his spot and move Jones up in the order to second.
“You have to adjust your lineup with how everybody is swinging at that particular time and right now I’m more of an on-base percentage guy than I am a power run-producer guy,” Jones said. “Jason is the guy who’s hitting the homers and drawing walks and hitting for average and driving in runs.”
Jones’ power numbers have been in decline since last season when he came in under 20 homers for the first time in his career. He entered Saturday’s game hitting only .228 with a .370 slugging percentage. He had two home runs and eight RBIs.
He had drawn a team-high 25 walks to give him a .393 on-base percentage, which he understands might make him a more suitable No. 2 hitter.
Heyward has as many homers as Jones has RBIs (eight) and leads the Braves in RBIs (28). Through Friday, he was tied with the Dodgers’ Andre Ethier for the majors’ lead in batting average with runners in scoring position at .500 (12-for-24).
“Ultimately I always describe that a No. 3 hitter is a guy who can do it all,” Jones said. “A guy who can hit for average and power, draw walks, run, score runs, drive in runs. At least right now Jason is really the only guy that can do all of those things. With the way I’m swinging the bat, right now I’m more of a table-setter.”
Since spring training, Jones has said he planned to groom Heyward to take over his No. 3 spot. If that time is now, Jones said he’s OK with it. Jones has given up his third spot before to hit cleanup behind Gary Sheffield and J.D. Drew. He has let manager Bobby Cox know he’s willing to give it up now.
“Anything Bobby wants to do with the lineup, I’ve always made it known I’ll do whatever’s best for the team, and he knows that,” Jones said. “I have no qualms hitting second, I have no qualms hitting fourth, fifth, sixth, whatever.”
When asked about it on Saturday, Cox said he liked the lineup the way he has it now. Friday night he moved Martin Prado into the leadoff spot, followed by Heyward and Jones, and he said he wanted to try it that way for a while.
“I just like it the way it is,” Cox said. “Chipper – he just missed hitting a homer last night. What’s the difference, second or third, anyway, to be honest with you.”
Heyward hit third for two games in Milwaukee when Jones was out with a groin injury. Heyward went 3-for-7 with six runs scored and two stolen bases in those two games.
Cox believes Heyward will still have plenty of chances with runners on base in the No. 2 spot. Heyward came to the plate Friday night with runners on base twice.
“He came up all night long with something going on,” Cox said. “And his on-base percentage is high, so why not hit him in front of these guys right now. Chipper’s got a high on-base percentage always. That’s pretty good for (Brian) McCann and (Troy) Glaus and (Eric) Hinske right now too.”