Braves start William Contreras in left field

Atlanta's William Contreras (right) had been training in the outfield, but the Braves hadn’t trusted him in game action until Monday. Contreras was scheduled to start in left field for the series opener against the Phillies. (AP Photo/Gaston De Cardenas)

Credit: AP

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Atlanta's William Contreras (right) had been training in the outfield, but the Braves hadn’t trusted him in game action until Monday. Contreras was scheduled to start in left field for the series opener against the Phillies. (AP Photo/Gaston De Cardenas)

Credit: AP

Young Braves catcher William Contreras had been training in the outfield, but the Braves hadn’t trusted him in game action until Monday. Contreras was scheduled to start in left field for the series opener against the Phillies.

Just two days ago, Contreras had a two-homer performance in Miami. With several key regulars in the Braves’ order scuffling, they wanted to get Contreras’ bat in the lineup without costing them starting catcher Travis d’Arnaud or the designated hitter spot. The deck shuffling includes Contreras hitting second between Ronald Acuña and Marcell Ozuna. D’Arnaud (hitting fourth), Matt Olson, Ozzie Albies and Austin Riley followed them.

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“I’m looking at it and I’m thinking, ‘Why not?’” manager Brian Snitker said. “If he’s going to swing well, we’ll give him a crack. I don’t know what will happen. But just move some of the other pieces around, I talked to some of the guys, just give them a different look of where they’re hitting and change the scenery a little bit. Maybe that’ll get them going. It’s a crazy thing when you’re trying and searching to get that heart (of the lineup) going.”

The Braves are 24th among MLB teams in average (.224) and 22nd in on-base percentage (.299). The offense was expected to be among the club’s great strengths but instead has been maddeningly inconsistent. That’s largely because multiple regulars are batting well below their standards, including Riley, Ozuna, Olson and Albies. Snitker hopes the lineup alterations provide some fresh perspective for everybody.

“(William) has been swinging it good,” Snitker said. “I feel like Marcell is right on the verge. He has been for a while here. Ronald has been swinging the bat well since he’s been back. Travis, too. Those four guys, just get them up there as much as we can right now, and hopefully the other guys can find a way to get it going also.”

Contreras has endured growing pains defensively, but his offense has always been his calling card. He’s shown that in a limited sample this season, launching six homers in 33 at-bats. With veteran backstop Manny Pina out for the season, Contreras assumed backup catcher duties, but outfield versatility – should he hold his own in left – would be valuable as an additional means of getting his offense in the lineup.