Joe Mather came to Braves camp a favorite to win a utility spot after the Braves claimed him off waivers from the Cardinals, eager to see what he could do after two years battling a hand and wrist injuries.
He wound up back on waivers though, after he failed to show the Braves much with his bat. Mather, who hit .137 (7-for-51) this spring, cleared waivers on Tuesday and was outrighted to Triple-A Gwinnett. From there he still figures into the Braves plans, if he can turn a corner offensively.
“We like him,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said. “We think he’s a good fit for our ball club. We’ve just got to get some additional work in offensively, which we’ve made him aware of and he’s aware of. He didn’t have a good offensive spring, but he did all the other things that we hoped he would do, which is play multiple positions and play them well.”
Mather will see action at first and third base and all three outfield positions in Gwinnett, while trying to improve his production.
“They want me to shorten my swing a little bit, which is always kind of what people say,” Mather said. “It all comes down to numbers. There are guys who have good numbers with long swings, and guys have bad numbers with short swings. So put up numbers, you’ll be back.”
Opening Day Lineup
Manager Fredi Gonzalez has made no secret of it all spring, but made it official on Tuesday, that his lineup for Opening Day would be: 1. Left fielder Martin Prado, 2. Center fielder Nate McLouth, 3. Third baseman Chipper Jones, 4. Catcher Brian McCann, 5. Second baseman Dan Uggla, 6. Right fielder Jason Heyward, 7. Shortstop Alex Gonzalez and 8. First baseman Freddie Freeman.
“You can go left-right all the way down so it makes it difficult for the opposing manager to bring those situational lefties in, or a situational right-hander in,” Gonzalez said. “And then you’ve got to pick your poison throughout the lineup.”
The two spots drawing the most debate were McLouth hitting second, after a miserable 2010 season, and Heyward hitting sixth despite his .393 on-base percentage, which ranked fourth among all NL qualifiers last year.
McLouth has reaffirmed Gonzalez’s decision with a resurgent spring and Heyward can draw an argument either way – as table-setter or run-producer.
“I know all my people from SABR,” Gonzalez said, of the statistics gurus at the Society for America Baseball Research. “But hey, we’re dealing with human beings. Sometimes guys get comfortable at a certain spot and they’re producing and they’ve got confidence and go get him.”