Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons’ left thumb sprain is expected to keep him out for no more than two games so he didn’t have to learn another hard lesson about the risk of sliding head first.
It also means an early opportunity for Ramiro Pena to join the lineup after his strong play during the spring. It’s not the ideal situation for the Braves, but it’s not all bad.
“For me, it’s OK,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “It’s just day-to-day and gives Pena a chance a little bit. We always talk about how good our team is and one of my biggest challenges is playing everybody. And now Pena gets to play a little bit.”
Simmons injured his finger while stealing second base during the third inning of Atlanta’s 4-1 victory against the Cubs Friday night at Turner Field. Simmons finished the game and was originally in Gonzalez’s lineup Saturday before getting scratched.
Simmons, who is batting lead off for the Braves, said he jammed the thumb on second base while trying to avoid the tag. He said it swelled overnight and was painful but tests confirmed that the strength is good.
“I feel good enough to go out there,” Simmons said. “If it was up to me, I would put myself in the lineup. But I guess they are trying to make the best decision for the team and for myself, I guess, so I understand.”
Gonzalez said he likely would hold Simmons out of Sunday’s series finale against the Cubs even if Simmons is cleared to play, just to be safe.
“Hopefully no more than that,” he said.
Simmons fractured his right pinkie finger while sliding head first into second base in July 2012. He missed more than two months with that injury.
Simmons said he doesn’t plan to stop sliding head first.
“It’s just how I feel faster,” he said. “Maybe (I can) put something on my hand that makes it easier sliding, but I doubt if I plain just stop sliding head first.”
Gonzalez, speaking on the subject of head-first slides after Friday’s game, said “you can’t shrink wrap them, you’ve got to let the guys play.” He didn’t know at the time that Simmons would end up needing to miss a day but he’s still realistic about the subject.
“We talk all the time, ‘Don’t slide head first, slide feet first, you are going to get hurt,” Gonzalez said. “But boys are boys.”
During the Grapefruit League Pena hit .320 with a .414 on-base percentage. He also played for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic.
“I got good results so I am feeling good,” Pena said.
With Simmons out of the lineup, Gonzalez moved center fielder B.J. Upton from fifth to first in the batting order. Upton, signed as a free agent by the Braves last November, was 0 for 14 with nine strikeouts in the first four games.
“He’s done it before,” Gonzalez said. “He’s not swinging the bat in the fifth hole, (so) put him in the No. 1 hole. Maybe he gets some fastballs, get him on base, get him to think something differently.”