Bonifacio starts in CF; Fredi won’t say if that’ll happen more

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Bonifacio starts in CF; Fredi won’t say if that’ll happen more

SAN DIEGO – The Braves had newly acquired Emilio Bonifacio in center field and batting leadoff Tuesday instead of underperforming B.J. Upton. But was it something that could become more of a regular occurrence?

Manager Fredi Gonzalez wouldn’t say.

“He’s such a nice piece to have that you can put him almost anywhere you want to,” Gonzalez said of Bonifacio, who has experience at six different infield and outfield positions. “But I haven’t gotten that far. I’ve gotten as far as tomorrow, and we’ll see what that brings, and (then) we’ll see against the Nationals.”

The Braves play the finale of a two-game series against the Mariners on Wednesday and have an off day Thursday before facing the Nationals on Friday to open a difficult 10-game homestand that includes three-game series against Washington and Oakland bookending a four-game series against the Dodgers.

Bonifacio was acquired from the Cubs in a Thursday trade along with left-hander James Russell. Bonifacio hit almost exclusively in the leadoff position for Chicago this season and had a .281 average with 19 extra-base hits, a .319 OBP and .378 slugging percentage in that spot in the order.

“I’ve been leading off almost my whole career, so I just really kind of enjoy it,” Bonifacio said Tuesday. “I can use my game there, hit the ball on the ground and run, try to give the team a spark. Try to get on base first, and then (run).”

Upton’s .211 average was the lowest among National League lineup regulars before Tuesday and he led the majors in strikeouts with 139 in 413 at-bats. He initially showed some improvement after being moved into the leadoff spot, but since the All-Star break Upton was batting .188 (12-for-64) with eight walks, 23 strikeouts and a .288 OBP in 16 games.

For the season in the leadoff spot, Upton had a .227 average (32-for-141) with nine extra-base hits, a .292 OBP, 12 walks and 47 strikeouts.

The Braves faced Mariners ace Felix Hernandez on Tuesday, and Upton was 3-for-31 with one walk and 11 strikeouts against the right-hander. Bonifacio was 1-for-8 against Hernandez before Tuesday.

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