Martin Prado might stay in left field or he might move to third base while Chipper Jones is on the disabled list, but he won’t move back and forth between positions the way he did last season.
So says Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, who doesn’t want to do anything that might adversely affect his hottest hitter. Gonzalez thinks that Prado alternating between left field and third base in 2011 might have been a factor in his career-worst season.
Jones was placed on the disabled list after Friday night’s game with a slow-healing contusion of his lower left leg, which remains painful and grotesquely discolored more than a week after he was struck by a hard one-hop grounder in a game at Tampa Bay on May 18.
“With Chipper down for 15 [games], he’s going to play left field the rest of the way,” Gonzalez said of Prado, “or he’s going to play third.”
Gonzalez wanted to wait at least a couple of more games to make that decision after seeing how backup third baseman Juan Francisco would respond to the opportunity in front of him.
“Francisco can make that decision,” Gonzalez said, meaning Francisco could secure the regular job while Jones is out by playing well in the next several games, although Matt Diaz would presumably still play some left field and Prado some third base against some difficult left-handers.
Francisco was hitting .200 overall with five homers, three walks and 26 strikeouts in 80 at-bats before Saturday, including .215 with four homers and 12 RBIs in 65 at-bats as a third baseman.
He made some inroads toward the regular job until Jones returns by collecting three of the Braves’ eight hits Saturday, including a ninth-inning double. Francisco drove in a run in the second inning.
While most of the Braves regulars have slumped lately, Prado has scorched. He had a .356 average with 19 extra-base hits, 19 RBIs and a .974 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in his past 35 games before Saturday, including .480 (24-for-50) with a .526 on-base percentage in his past 13 games.
During the Braves’ five-game losing skid before Saturday, Prado was 8-for-19 and the rest of the team was 21-for-142 (.148).