Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said a few days ago that finding ways to keep hot-hitting rookie slugger Evan Gattis in the lineup had become a priority, and Sunday that meant a seat on the bench for struggling right fielder Jason Heyward.
Gattis started in left field and Justin Upton shifted from left to right in place of Heyward. It was the fourth consecutive start and sixth in seven games for Gattis, who in that period caught two games, played three in left field, and served as designated hitter in another at Toronto.
In his past 11 games before Sunday, Gattis was 11-for-27 (.407) with five homers and 12 RBIs. He hit .317 with six homers in 63 at-bats in May, with 16 RBIs and a 1.045 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.
He was batting .275 overall and led major league rookies in homers (12), extra-base hits (23) and RBIs (32) before Sunday, and was a top contender for a second consecutive NL Rookie of the Month award.
Heyward struck out in all three plate appearances Saturday to make him 0-for-18 in his past six games and 1-for-25 with 10 strikeouts in his past eight. He had a .167 average and .310 on-base percentage in 14 games since returning from the disabled list after an April 22 appendectomy.
For the season, Heyward was batting .142 with two homers, eight RBIs and a .283 OBP in 31 games. His average ranked last out 241 major leaguers with at least 125 plate appearances, and his .519 OPS ranked 236th.
Since homering in three consecutive games Aug. 24-26 at San Francisco, Heyward hit .191 (45-for-235) with five homers in his past 64 games before Sunday, with 23 walks, 47 strikeouts, three stolen bases and a .277 OBP and .311 slugging percentage.
The Braves haven’t been able to acquire the ace they might have wanted for the top of their rotation, but they secured the depth they needed Monday with the signing of free agent right-hander Gavin Floyd.
One week after the Braves were eliminated by the Dodgers in a four-game division series, Braves general manager Frank Wren met with the team’s beat writers and discussed the 2013 season and the team’s needs going into the offseason.