Milwaukee – The Braves spent two months trying to slow Andrelton Simmons down and give the fractured bone in his right hand time to heal. They’re finished with that now and are ready to sit back and watch him go to work.
Simmons, the 23-year-old whiz of a shortstop, rejoined the Braves lineup Monday night in Milwaukee for the first time since he injured his hand sliding into second base on July 8 in Philadelphia.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Simmons, who’ll have the final 21 games and potential postseason to make a difference. “Now is go time. This is where you want to be. You want to be in the race in September.”
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez doesn’t foresee any restrictions or plan late-inning substitutions; he wants to let Simmons play as much as possible. Gonzalez will check with him every day, of course, but the Braves feel confident Simmons is ready to go after his six-game minor league rehabilitation assignment.
So is Simmons.
And he doesn’t seem to mind the expectations that come with having hit .296 with three home runs and 15 RBIs in his first 33 games in the major leagues and winning National League rookie of the month in June.
“I did good the last couple games in the minor leagues so hopefully that will carry on,” said Simmons. “I’m feeling good. I’m seeing the ball really well. And I’m hoping it’ll carry on today.”
Simmons said his legs tired easily in his first two minor league rehab games but after that, he was fine. His numbers reflect it. He hit .320 (8-for-25) with two doubles, two home runs and six RBIs in six games.
The Braves would love to see him slide feet-first front now on but realize there will be times when his instincts take over. As for Simmons?
“I’ll think feet-first for now, but if the situation where really I’ve got to get there….” Simmons said. “I’ll be fine, I guess.”
Gonzalez made a point during his pre-game comments Monday to single out Paul Janish for the job he did filling in for Simmons. Janish, who was acquired in a trade from the Reds, committed just two errors in 225 chances, while putting up a .991 fielding percentage.
“Paul Janish saved our butt,” Gonzalez said. “Kudos to our professional scouts and our front office to go out and get a guy like him, not only what he can do defensively but he’s a straight professional guy. Boy he was terrific.”
Gonzalez said he would feel comfortable with Janish at either shortstop or second base but his primary role will be to backup Simmons at shortstop. He told Janish to be ready.
“I said ‘Listen, my young shortstop plays with his hair on fire so be ready,’” Gonzalez said. “Don’t shut it down. Simmons will go out the first day, he’ll try to go from double to triple and roll an ankle. I hope not but ‘be ready to play.’ And he said, ‘Fredi, you don’t have to worry about that.’”