WASHINGTON – Fredi Gonzalez is channeling his inner Tony La Russa.
With the addition of leadoff hitter Michael Bourn from the Astros, who made his debut for the Braves Monday night, Gonzalez decided to hit the pitcher Jair Jurrjens eighth against the Nationals and bat speedy outfielder Jose Constanza ninth.
It was the first time an Atlanta Brave pitcher has ever batted anywhere other than ninth. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Jim Tobin was the last Braves pitcher to bat higher than ninth when he hit eighth for the Boston Braves against the Phillies on Aug. 12, 1941.
Gonzalez was hoping to take advantage of two speedsters hitting back-to-back in Constanza and Bourn and setting up more RBI opportunities for Martin Prado, Freddie Freeman and Dan Uggla.
He was also thinking he could have Constanza steal more often hitting behind the pitcher than in front of him.
“If everything’s right it’s OK because you almost have two leadoff guys,” Gonzalez said. “You can use Constanza in the nine hole and you can steal bases, whereas if you put him in the eighth hole with the pitcher (behind him), you almost bog him down a little bit.”
Gonzalez indicated that he plans to use the lineup going forward only if both Constanza and Bourn are in the lineup.
“It just depends on if both of those guys are in the lineup – Constanza and Bourn – at the same time,” he said.