Pittsburgh – Jordan Schafer returned to the Braves’ lineup Tuesday night for the first time in almost two years, getting the start in center field for the injured Nate McLouth.
Schafer hadn’t played in the majors since May 31, 2009, just three days before the Braves traded for McLouth and effectively gave up on the notion that Schafer was ready to play center field every day.
Schafer had injured his left wrist just four games into that season and futilely tried to play through it. He has spent the better part of two years working his way back from the ensuing surgery. He’s also gained some perspective.
“All the stuff I’ve been through has been pretty crazy, but I think it’s made me grow up a lot where I think I’m more mature now mentally,” said Schafer.
One way that might show up is in his approach. Schafer said unlike his first two months in the majors in 2009, when he struck out 63 times in 167 at-bats, he’s focused on staying within himself, getting on base and using his speed to his advantage.
Schafer, a leadoff hitter throughout his career, homered in his first major league at-bat in Philadelphia and acknowledges now that got him off-track from the start.
“Hitting a home run the first at-bat was one of the worst things besides the injury that happened to me because it got me out of my element,” Schafer said. “It got me trying to be somebody I wasn’t.”
This time around he won’t make the same mistake, and for at least the two weeks while McLouth is on the disabled list, he’ll have a chance to prove it. He gave a clue in his first at-bat Tuesday, fouling off a bunt attempt on the first pitch he saw from pitcher Charlie Morton before grounding out.
Schafer was hitting .256 (42-for-164) with one home run and 21 RBIs in 42 games for Gwinnett.
“He’s been playing OK in Triple-A, leading off a lot, get some speed up there,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “We know that he can play defense. He may be the best defender we have in the entire organization; he’s your pure center fielder.”