When I spoke to Braves general manager Frank Wren earlier today and asked about the struggling Nate McLouth, this is what he said: “The last ball he hit the other night was the hardest he’s hit since he came back. So we’re hoping that’s a sign.”
Sign? Right. Turns out the only sign was off of Interstate 85 heading north, exit 115: Buford Drive. That’s where McLouth will be parked indefinitely.
The Braves optioned McLouth to the Triple-A Gwinnett Braves. Ironic. He sort of takes the roster spot vacated in Gwinnett by Jordan Schafer, who was recently demoted yet another level down to Double-A Mississippi.
There was a time when McLouth was viewed as the bridge to Schafer. Now both are bridges to nowhere.
Give Wren credit for this. He understands this season can be a special one for the Braves. He’s not taking any chances. He decided to deal talented but pouty shortstop Yunel Escobar, giving up age and potentially something greater down the line, for the more stable Alex Gonzalez. Now he is dropping McLouth, who is hitting only .168 this season and is 1-for-15 since returning from the disabled list with a concussion. The final straw might have been grounding into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded the other night in Florida.
The move doesn’t solve the Braves’ problem in center field, but it eliminates an eyesore from the roster. Wren presumably has been trying to move McLouth before Friday’s non-waiver trade deadline, but the fact the player signed a three-year, $15.75 million contract extension last season makes that problematic.
But for now, he deserves some credit for knowing when to cut losses with McLouth.
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