Both Alberto Callaspo and Chris Johnson had good stretches at the plate during the first month of the season that, at one point or another, might have made them appear to be good options to play third base full time for the Braves.
But manager Fredi Gonzalez said it was no accident that both veterans were producing in part-time roles. Deploying them in a platoon was the best way for both players to be effective, Gonzalez said, because he could pick the best match ups for either.
Gonzalez doesn’t plan to change his platoon approach at third base now that Johnson is on the disabled list.
“We were mixing and matching with (Johnson) here,” Gonzalez said, and he will do the same with Callaspo, Phil Gosselin and a possible addition from the minor leagues.
Johnson is expected to miss 3-6 weeks with bone bruises suffered while sliding into second base on Thursday. He had started nine of the first 22 games at third base.
Callaspo started his 11th game at third base on Friday against the Reds. Kelly Johnson has starred two games at third but gets most of his playing time in the outfield. Gosselin has made one start at third and figures to get more playing time there with Chris Johnson out.
The Braves singed Callaspo to a one-year, $3 million contract in the off season and he got off to a slow start when reported to spring camp out of shape. But the switch-hitter produced throughout Grapefruit League play and has been steady during the regular season.
Callaspo entered Friday batting .268 with a .333 on-base percentage, .370 slugging percentage and five strikeouts in 63 plate appearances. Those numbers are in line with his career averages of .268 hitting, .330 OBP, .370 slugging and 8.9 strikeout percentage (plate appearances per strikeout).
Callaspo, a switch-hitter, has made 13 of his 14 overall starts against right-handed starters. He’s also started four games at second base.
“Here’s a guy that doesn’t strike out, puts the ball in play, gets on base,” Gonzalez said. “He can play a couple positions. I’m pleased (with his production). He’s another guy like Gosselin—and you have to put labels on players—but I think he is a guy you give him a breather twice a week, three times a week and you match him up well I think you get a lot of production. If you run him in there every single day he may not be as productive.”
Gosselin, who bats right-handed, had just 20 plate appearances this season entering Friday with six of those as a pinch hitter. He was hitting .211 with a .250 on-base percentage, .263 slugging percentage and three strikeouts.
The Braves selected Gosselin in the fifth round of the 2010 draft. He made his big-league debut in 2013 and last season hit .266 with a .304 OBP in 136 plate appearances.
“I think he’s a major league player,” Gonzalez said of Gosselin. “He can play multiple positions, he can pinch hit. He’s a very valuable piece in the National League team. He can play third, second, short. You can even run him in the outfield like we did in spring training.”
Speaking before Thursday’s game, Gonzalez said he didn’t like to leave Gosselin on the bench for long stretches. He said on Friday he doesn’t want Gosselin or any of his bench players to get stagnant from sitting for too long.
“Going from pinch hit at-bat to pinch hit at-bat, it’s not good for the timing,” Gonzalez said. “Keep him active. Keep him getting at-bats, seeing major league pitching. That’s the reason I don’t like doing it, and I don’t think anybody in the National League likes doing that.
“But it really is a plus to have guys that can play. Sometimes you get pinch hitters that are defensive liabilities and you are scared to death to put them out there for four innings. None of our guys are that way. You can run them out there as long as you want.”
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