Two years after going to Chipper Jones for help out of the slump that would eventually land him back in the minor leagues, Jordan Schafer went back to the veteran third baseman for advice on how to get back to the major leagues.
Schafer points to a conversation he had with Jones in spring training about what he needed to do to establish himself as a leadoff hitter that has helped him come into his own. It’s paying off now in his return to the majors after two years since his slump and subsequent wrist surgery.
Schafer has reached base safely in each of his first six games in center field starting in place of the injured Nate McLouth. Entering Monday, he had two bunt singles, four walks, and had scored the winning run in extra innings on Saturday night and the tying run on Martin Prado’s go-ahead two-run homer on Sunday night.
“I told him flat out you don’t make enough contact to hit up in the lineup here,” said Jones, who encouraged Schafer to hit the ball on the ground and use his speed. “’You’ve got to put the ball in play on the ground, put the ball in play to the left side, and be the table-setter. And until you start doing those things, there’s no need for you here.’”
Schafer said he took that to heart when he started his season in Triple-A Gwinnett.
“He was pretty blunt and pretty honest with me,” Schafer said. “That’s what I was looking for. Going into the season in Gwinnett this year, it was something I tried to apply every game. It’s worked pretty well so far.”
Two years after hitting a home run in his first major league at-bat in Philadelphia and going on to strike out 63 times in 167 at-bats, Schafer admits it might have been the worst thing that could have happened to him, outside of his wrist injury.
He’s shed that homer-happy approach and is playing within himself now. And if he doesn’t? He’s got somebody nearby who will remind him.
“Schafe will get kind of homer-happy on your every once in a while if he hits a couple,” Jones said. “And that’s not what we need. We don’t need a Napoleonic leadoff hitter. We don’t need somebody with that complex. I’d much rather have that guy who’s satisfied with the single and able to steal second.”
Upon further review
Catcher David Ross said Monday morning he thought he had tagged out baserunner Paul Janish at the plate in the eighth inning on Sunday night, representing the tying run in the Braves’ 2-1 win over the Reds. But after seeing the TV replay, he knows the Braves probably caught a break.
“It looks like his foot may have been in there, but at the time I thought he was out,” Ross said.
Ross probably benefitted from the fact that the throw from Martin Prado beat the runner, and with him going for a high swipe tag on Janish, it made it a tough call for home plate umpire Dan Iassogna.
“That’s a real, real tough call for these guys,” Ross said. “You can’t see both. You can see the high tag but you can’t see if his foot (was in there) at the same time.”