Braves’ Pache thinks demotion helped him

Braves center fielder Cristian Pache follows through on a grand slam in front of Toronto Blue Jays catcher Alejandro Kirk during the second inning Saturday, May 1, 2021, in Dunedin, Fla. (Mike Carlson/AP)
Braves center fielder Cristian Pache follows through on a grand slam in front of Toronto Blue Jays catcher Alejandro Kirk during the second inning Saturday, May 1, 2021, in Dunedin, Fla. (Mike Carlson/AP)

Credit: Mike Carlson

Credit: Mike Carlson

Back in spring training, the conventional wisdom held that rookie center fielder Cristian Pache’s exceptional defensive ability could keep him in the Braves’ starting lineup even if he struggled to hit.

But that theory, which may have sounded good in North Port, Fla., was soon disproven amid the realities of the regular season.

Pache’s .133 batting average through 11 games, with four hits, one walk and 13 strikeouts in 31 plate appearances, had him on the verge of being optioned to the alternate training site at Gwinnett by mid-April. The demotion was delayed by a 10-day stint on the injured list with a strained left groin, but when Pache was ready to come off the IL on April 24, he indeed was sent to Gwinnett.

Pache is now back in center field for the Braves, having been recalled from the alternate site sooner than anticipated because Guillermo Heredia went on the injured list with right hamstring inflammation Saturday.

“It’s definitely a long season. That’s kind of how I looked on it. It’s going to be filled with highs and lows,” Pache said of his early-season struggles, speaking through an interpreter. “But I think when lows happen, you have to take advantage of them. Those are all kind of learning opportunities.

“You need to make the most of those struggles that you have and try to make them positives. And, God willing, we’ll find success and good things come the rest of the season.”

Braves center fielder Cristian Pache "stirs the drink" as he celebrates while rounding the bases after his grand slam against the Toronto Blue Jays during the second inning Saturday, May 1, 2021, in Dunedin, Fla. (Mike Carlson/AP)
Braves center fielder Cristian Pache "stirs the drink" as he celebrates while rounding the bases after his grand slam against the Toronto Blue Jays during the second inning Saturday, May 1, 2021, in Dunedin, Fla. (Mike Carlson/AP)

Credit: Mike Carlson

Credit: Mike Carlson

Pache’s first at-bat upon his return to the big leagues perhaps showed a glimpse of the progress made during his week of work with coaches at Gwinnett: He blasted a changeup from Toronto pitcher Tommy Milone over the left-field fence for a grand slam, his first career regular-season MLB home run, in the second inning Saturday night in Dunedin, Fla.

“I’m really happy and excited to be back,” Pache said. “The hitting coaches down there (at Gwinnett) were definitely very helpful to me in the sense that I had some extra time where we could really break down the film of my swing and see where I was making some mistakes and address that and make adjustments. You kind of see that now.”

He followed the grand slam with two strikeouts and a sacrifice bunt in his other three plate appearances Saturday.

Braves notes

-- Huascar Ynoa is scheduled to be the Braves’ starting pitcher for the opener of a three-game series Tuesday in Washington. Ynoa has a 2.96 ERA through six games (five starts) this season.

-- Max Fried will start the second game of the Washington series on Wednesday, manager Brian Snitker said Sunday. Fried has been on the injured list since April 13 with a hamstring strain.

-Saturday’s 10-inning loss to Toronto dropped the Braves to 0-4 in extra-inning games this season and 0-6 in games tied after eight innings.

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