MINNEAPOLIS – Two days after his collision with right fielder Jason Heyward, center fielder Nate McLouth went on the 15-day disabled list Friday with concussion symptoms, and the Braves planned to recall center fielder Jordan Schafer from Triple-A Gwinnett.
But the plan changed when utility man Omar Infante fouled a ball off his right foot in the fifth inning Friday night. The Braves announced after the game that shortstop Brandon Hicks would be recalled from Gwinnett instead of Schafer, and would arrive in Minneapolis Saturday.
They don’t think Infante’s foot injury is serious, but even if if it only sidelines him for a day or two the Braves wanted to make sure they had a backup shortstop.
The initial decision to recall Schafer was a surprise, as Braves officials indicated earlier in the week that Schafer needed to get more at-bats at Gwinnett and keep working to regain his timing. Schafer missed much of last season with a wrist fracture that required September surgery.
The Braves’ starting center fielder on Opening Day in 2009, Schafer was hitting .213 with four extra-base hits (no homers), four RBIs and a .253 on-base-percentage in 21 games this season at Gwinnett, with 22 strikeouts in 95 at-bats.
Braves general manager Frank Wren explained — before the Infante situation changed things — that the Schafer move was made because of roster constraints. He was the only healthy outfielder on the 40-man roster that they believed could help the team, and Wren said Schafer would move into the fifth-outfielder role to serve primarily as a late-innings defensive replacement.
Wren said after the game that if Infante is ready to play in a few days, the Braves will reevaluate and decide whether they’re better suited with Hicks or Schafer as the last guy on the bench. For now, they have enough outfielders to get by.
Gregor Blanco’s role will increase, Wren said, with Blanco filling a fourth-outfielder role similar to what Melky Cabrera had early in the season. Cabrera will be the primary center fielder while McLouth is on the DL.
“We’ve got some tightness in our roster that we can’t alleviate easily, so to add another guy to the [40-man] roster would put us in a bind in next week,” Wren said.
The Braves have a pending decision to make regarding Triple-A pitcher Chris Resop, whose contract stipulates that he must be added to the major league team by June 15 (Tuesday) or be traded. If not, he can opt for free agency.
The Braves aren’t sure how long McLouth will be sidelined. “With head injuries, you just don’t know,” Wren said.
“I’m still dizzy, like if I get up and move around,” said McLouth, who said he had not been told if he had a concussion. “But they’ve treated it that way.”
While McLouth’s away, most of the playing time is expected to to Eric Hinske in left and Cabrera in center, with Blanco likely to start some in center. He’s a strong defensive center fielder.
“He’s not going to get well anytime soon,” Cox said of McLouth.
McLouth is about 70 pounds lighter than the 245-pound Heyward, with whom he collided when both sprinted to the right-center gap chasing a fly ball by Arizona’s Gerardo Parra in the eighth inning Wednesday. Parra circled the bases while McLouth lay dazed and Heyward scrambled to retrieve the ball.
McLouth flipped over Heyward and hit the back of his head on the ground when he landed. He still had a headache Friday, although not as severe as what he’d felt for the 24 or so hours after the incident.
“I’m definitely symptomatic, but I have not heard the word ‘concussion’ used,” McLouth said Friday, as he sat on a couch in the visitor’s clubhouse at Target Field before the Braves’ series opener against Minnesota. “The doctor said they don’t really grade concussions as severe or minor anymore. Either you have one or you don’t.”
It’s another bad turn in what’s been a disappointing season for the center fielder, who has hit just .176 (second-lowest among National league regulars) with three homers, 14 RBIs and 46 strikeouts in 170 at-bats. He was 5-for-50 in his past 18 games.