(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien this series.)
WASHINGTON – By now, most of you have already seen the Braves lineup, and already deduced that Jason Heyward is out of the lineup today against the Nationals, even with a right-hander going in Chien-Ming Wang.
It’s the first time this season Heyward will sit for consecutive games this season for reasons not relating to his health. The way Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez put it Wednesday morning, he’s going with the hot hand.
Jose Constanza has given the Braves a spark since his arrival on Friday, and gone 8-for-20 with a double and two RBIs in his first five major league starts.
Gonzalez put Eric Hinske in left field because Hinske has a great history against Wang – going 13-for-30 (.433) against him with five doubles, two homers and four RBIs.
“Just because he hasn’t been in the lineup two days in a row has got nothing to do with giving up on him or anything like that, absolutely not,” Gonzalez said. “It was just a matter of Constanza swinging it, and Hinske having decent numbers against Wang.”
Heyward has hit only .233 (34-for-146) since he came off the disabled list in mid-June. He’s not hitting the ball with the same authority he did in his standout rookie season. The Braves are believed to have at least mulled over the possibility of sending him to the minors to work on his swing.
What this seems like now going forward is Gonzalez showing more of a willingness to play the matchups and the hot hand, which could mean more time sitting for Heyward.
Gonzalez said he sat down with Heyward one-on-one and prepared him for that possibility when the team was in Colorado the week before the trade deadline.
“We spoke, along with some of the other guys just before the trade deadline,” Gonzalez said. “I told them we were planning to maybe pick somebody up at the trade deadline not knowing who we were going to pick up but we were looking at the outfield position. We owe it to the team and the organization if that does happen, we’re going to play the guys who help us these next 60 games and win. He was good with it.”
That didn’t make it any easier for Heyward on a morning like Wednesday to walk into the clubhouse and look at the posted lineup and not find his name.
“I want to play every day that I can,” Heyward said. “But I know that he’s going to put the lineup up and whatever he feels is best for us individually and as a team.”
In the meantime, Heyward said he’ll try to take advantage of having three days of rest, including Thursday’s off day, to rest his body and refocus.
Heyward battled through a shoulder injury. While he’s not going to blame that injury for his struggles this season, Gonzalez wonders if it might be affecting him to some extent. And Heyward acknowledges that the injury got him into some bad habits.
“You’re never going to be 100 percent at this point in the season, especially when you’ve had injuries throughout the season,” Heyward said. “But I would say more than anything probably the aftermath of it – whether it’s from bad habits – that’s probably the biggest effect that anything’s had. Other than that, I’m not in anywhere near the kind of pain I was in (in late May and early June).”
Heyward said his relationship with Gonzalez is good. I’m sure Gonzalez’s openness with him in Colorado helped that. So it’s not like he was walking around angry and upset this morning. But it’ll be interesting to see what happens Friday in New York, if Chipper Jones returns like he hopes and Martin Prado is back in left field.
Other things to come out this morning, which I’ll delve into more deeply in notes, but Jones felt better yesterday fielding groundballs and is now hopeful with the day off Thursday he can return to the lineup Friday against the Mets.
Brian McCann is close to the point where he’ll start playing some catch, but he’s not swinging a bat yet and that’s where the big rub lies – how his oblique will hold up.
Gonzalez doesn’t sound like a manager who’s about to pull the struggling veteran Derek Lowe from the rotation. When I asked about that this morning, he said: “Like any athlete that goes though some tough stretches, hitters go through it, pitchers go through it, bullpen guys go through it, and closers. I think we’re going through that a little bit like that.”
And when specifically asked if he considered making a change there, Gonzalez said: “To get him out of the rotation, no, no, no. you ride it out.”
OK got to get this up before the game starts.
1. Michael Bourn CF
2. Martin Prado 3B
3. Freddie Freeman 1B
4. Dan Uggla 2B
5. Eric Hinkse LF
6. Alex Gonzalez SS
7. David Ross C
8. Brandon Beachy P
9. Jose Constanza RF