SAN FRANCISCO – In the Braves clubhouse on Sunday at Turner Field, Tim Hudson announced that chapel would start in 10 minutes. Eric Hinske replied, “Take my bats with you.”
It was a moment of levity in that has been a difficult season for Hinske, a veteran bench player who was hitting just .203 with one homer and 35 strikeouts in 118 at-bats before Friday, including 7-for-46 (.152) as a pinch-hitter.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez gave Hinske a rare start in left field on Friday and moved Martin Prado to shortstop for only his second start of the season at that position. Gonzalez said he made the move to give shortstop Paul Janish a day off and to get some at-bats for Hinske and try to revive his bat for the stretch drive.
“The last time he started, he DH’d in Boston — that was in [bleeping] June,” Gonzalez said of Hinske, who indeed started an interleague game at Boston on June 24, but had also started once other game since then — July 14 in left field at Colorado.
“Just get him three at-bats, try to get some offense, give Janish a day,” Gonzalez said.
Before Friday, Janish started 38 consecutive games since the Braves got him from the Reds to fill in for injured shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who broke a bone in his throwing hand in the last game before the All-Star break. They got Janish strictly for his strong defense, but his .206 average with the Braves included some big hits and an eight-game stretch Aug. 11-18 when he went 10-for-28 (.357).
Janish was 1-for-18 with six strikeouts in five games since then, and Gonzalez asked him how he felt Thursday and let him know he planned to give him a day out of the lineup. Janish will be at shortstop until Simmons returns, which probably won’t be for another two weeks.
After toiling in the minors for all or part of nine seasons with the Reds, including all this season in Triple-A before the trade, Janish, 29, told Gonzalez the day he joined the Braves that playing every day in the big leagues was anything but a chore.
“I said man, I’ll play every day for five years if you want me to,” Janish said.
In Hinske’s last big game at Boston, the big man lined two balls off outfield walls for a double, a triple and two RBis in what amounted to a one-day reprieve from the the longest and most frustrating slump of his career. He is 10-for-84 (.119) with five RBIs his past 55 games, and outside of that game in Boston he has just three other extra-base hits during that period since May 5.
Hinske is 35 and a veteran of many playoff races and postseason series, which is why the Braves want to try to get his bat going.
“It’s very important,” Gonzalez said. “And the only way can do it is getting some at-bats. So hopefully he’ll get three at-bats today and get him going.”
Asked if he still believed Hinske had it in him, Gonzalez said, “Yeah. If I didn’t, we wouldn’t play him.”