Veteran catcher Gerald Laird spent much of the past few days in significant pain while trying to pass a kidney stone, and when he wasn’t hurting it was because he was on serious pain medication. The situation forced Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez to adjust what’s become his usual late-innings strategy.
Laird, 33, was taken to a hospital after his pain intensified Sunday and he became nauseous, and he wasn’t at Turner Field during the Braves 5-2 win Sunday night against the Cardinals.
Gonzalez didn’t make the usual late-innings-with-a-lead defensive substitution of Paul Janish for third baseman Chris Johnson with a 2-0 lead after eight Saturday or 5-2 lead after eight Sunday.
Because Janish and Johnson are the Braves’ emergency catchers, Gonzalez didn’t want to get potentially caught without a third baseman if he moved Janish to third and removed Johnson from the game, then had an injury to catcher Brian McCann.
Second catcher Evan Gattis played left field Saturday and Sunday, and Gonzalez was also reluctant to take him out of the game for fear of being down to one regular catcher, McCann. He usually replaces Gattis for outfield defense with a late-innings lead.
The Braves were close to being short-handed after Reed Johnson, who replaced Gattis in the top of the eighth Sunday, aggravated his Achilles’ tendon running out a ground ball in the bottom of the inning. Jose Constanza played left field in the ninth, and the Braves were down to one catcher, McCann.
Reed Johnson was placed on the 15-day DL after Monday night’s 10-inning win against Colorado, and rookie Todd Cunningham was called up from Triple-A Gwinnett, assuring the Braves’ bench wouldn’t be as thin Tuesday.
Laird was at the ballpark Tuesday but, barring a sudden change in his condition, wasn’t expected to be available for Tuesday’s game. Kidney stones can take several days or even weeks to pass.
“When I saw him Sunday afternoon, he was laid up and describing the pain,” Gonzalez said. “(A Braves trainer) said Gerald has some back issues. That afternoon, he comes in and he’s on the trainer’s table, he’s got his feet up and he goes, ‘Skip, I can’t get comfortable.’ He said, ‘It started back here (in his lower back), and now it feels like it’s coming around (his side).’”
Gonzalez, himself a veteran of four kidney stones, said he told Laird, “Gerald, I’m not a doctor, but it sounds like you’ve got kidney stones.”
After the pain increased and Laird became ill, he was taken to a hospital, where tests showed the kidney stone.
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