Braves’ Fredi G. likes La Stella No. 2, Simmons No. 8 in lineup

With catcher Evan Gattis back from the disabled list on Monday and batting sixth in the lineup, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez he said he plans to stick with second baseman Tommy La Stella batting second and Andrelton Simmons hitting eighth.

La Stella has produced better numbers as the No. 7 hitter compared to No. 2, and Simmons has hit better in the No. 2 slot than at No. 8. But Gonzalez said he expects La Stella’s numbers as the No. 2 hitter to improve as he gets more opportunities there and that Simmons likes hitting eighth.

La Stella, who made his major-league debut May 28, is hitting .373 with a .448 on-base percentage and a .473 slugging percentage in 110 at-bats as the No. 8 hitter. La Stella has no hits in 15 at-bats in the No. 2 hole.

“He’s done it all in his career in the minor leagues (hitting) in the second and third hole more than in the seventh,” Gonzalez said. “I’m not worried about it right now. I think the young man is going to hit and it doesn’t matter where you put him.”

Gonzalez said the No. 2 hitter should be comfortable handling the bat not only for sacrifice bunts but also for hitting the ball to spots on the field to move runners.

“I think Tommy can do that,” Gonzalez said. “He puts the ball in play. We haven’t had a chance to see what he really, really can do. You should see him bunt. This guy can really bunt. The minor-league people said he can bunt for a base hit at will. I’ve seen it a couple times. He’s really, really good. He can really manipulate the bat.”

Simmons is batting .286 with a .343 on-base percentage in 91 at-bats as the No. 2 hitter compared to .248 with a .306 on-base percentage in 121 at-bats when hitting eighth.

Gonzalez said ideally he’d alternate right- and left-handed hitters at the top of the order instead of having lefty La Stella hitting in front of fellow lefty Freddie Freeman. But he said righty Simmons is better suited than La Stella to hit eighth and that’s the main reason he decided to move La Stella up and Simmons down in the order.

“If you leave it like the way it was and you plug in Gattis, where do you put Tommy at, eighth?” Gonzalez said. “I feel comfortable that Simmons can handle that position in the eight hole really well. He kind of likes it, believe it or not, even though he’s about (.290) in the two hole. That’s the reason (for the lineup). You plug in Gattis some place and you don’t want to hit him second. “