Fredi Gonzalez heard the news on his way home Friday night. The Phillies had acquired all-star outfielder Hunter Pence, whom the Braves had also pursued heavily.
When the Braves manager arrived home, he sent a text message to pitching coach Roger McDowell.
“Pitch your [butt] off,” Gonzalez wrote.
“They got a pretty good player,” Gonzalez said Saturday, less than 24 hours before Major League Baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline. “There is no question about it. They’ve made themselves a pretty good team. That’s a good piece to add in that lineup.”
The Braves players are well aware of what the Phillies, who lead the National League East, have done.
“They’ve made every move you can make in order to try to go for it,” second baseman Dan Uggla said. ” They got Cliff Lee in the offseason, they got Hunter Pence now, they’ve got unbelievable depth if somebody goes down; they’ve been picking each other up all year long. They’re a good team. But we are, too. And there’s a lot of other good teams that are going to make the playoffs, too.”
Gonzalez knows Frank Wren is trying to bring the Braves help for the stretch run, and is kept abreast of possibilities. The team needs outfield help and was in talks with Houston about speedy center fielder/leadoff man Michael Bourn on Saturday.
Before center fielder Nate McLouth went on the disabled list Friday with an abdominal strain, the Braves were more focused on corner outfielders who bat right-handed, either frontline players led by Pence or lesser bats who might be used in some sort of platoon arragement in left and right field.
With Jordan Schafer and McLouth on the disabled list, the Braves recalled Jose Constanza from Triple-A Gwinnett and started him in center and leadoff Friday and Saturday in his first two major league games.
“We know that Frank is looking,” Gonzalez said. “That’s all you can ask that your GM is looking and busting his butt on the phone to try to make deals that are going to fit our needs. He’s got a great knowledge of the big picture.”
Right fielder Jason Heyward, who batted seventh for the second straight game Saturday, has continued to struggle, batting .191 (9-for-47) with two home runs, seven RBIs and a .269 on-base percentage since the All-Star break. In July, he has the fifth lowest batting average in the National League at .202.
A platoon in right field could be a solution. Against left-handers, Heyward is hitting .167 (14-for-84) with two home runs, six RBIs, 19 strikeouts, a .255 on-base percentage and a .310 slugging percentage.
Gonzalez said Heyward has been putting in extra work in an effort to break out of the slump. On Saturday, prior to taking batting practice, he worked in the team’s indoor cage with hitting coach Larry Parrish and instructor Lee Elia.
“He is really working hard with Larry and in the video room,” Gonzalez said. “He’s changing his swing path a little bit, trying to. It’s hard to make adjustments in the major league level and now it’s August. His confidence level is good and he’s hit the ball hard a few times.”