Simmons, Gonzalez discuss shortstop’s ill-advised bunt

SAN DIEGO – Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons decided to bunt with one out in the eighth inning Saturday against the Padres, with the score 2-2, runners on the corners, the infield in, and slow-footed Evan Gattis at third base.

While his intentions may have been good – Simmons was trying something, anything, to win the game — it was a bad decision that surprised Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, third-base coach Doug Dascenzo, and Gattis, who hesitated before running and was beaten to the plate by at least 10 feet on the throw from first baseman Yonder Alonso.

Even if Simmons had not bunted the ball too hard, the decision to bunt was not a sound one. Certainly not with Gattis at third base and unaware that Simmons was bunting.

The Braves lost 3-2 in 12 innings, their fifth consecutive defeat, and afterward Simmons declined to speak to reporters and Gonzalez declined to say anything about the player other than “I’ll wear that”, which meant he was taking the blame, even if it wasn’t apparent why and wouldn’t provide any reason why he was at fault rather than Simmons.

Things were clarified Sunday morning, when both Gonzalez and Simmons talked with reporters about what happened.

“I wasn’t feeling really comfortable at the plate,” said Simmons, who is 0-for-10 in his past three games and hasn’t had a multi-hit game in his past 16 games. “Just thought if I put a better bunt down we had a better chance. I bunted too hard. Obviously (it was the) wrong choice. I should have done better.”

Gonzalez was so surprised when Simmons bunted, the manager looked to Dascenzo to make sure neither of them had given a bunt sign. They had not.

“That’s a situation where his mind was thinking, I can help the team with this,” Gonzalez said. “We’ve done it before, the safety squeeze. (But) There was no sign or nothing. ‘I’m going to take it upon myself, I think this is a good play.’ And it’s like, did you forget who was at third? Did you forget that the infield was in? So that’s the teaching end of it.

“Everybody was like, what the (expletive)? But in his mind he wants to win the game, he wants to do the right thing, and it becomes the wrong thing. I brought him in here and said, listen, you’re a talented guy. Let me and the coaches do the thinking, and you’ll be a lot better off for it. And you teach them, and after a while they’ll go, you’re right.

“And then you teach the next guy.”

Noting how young and relatively inexperienced some Braves are, Gonzalez said another player, a rookie, mentioned to bench coach Carlos Tosca after Simmons’ bunt that he thought it was a good play.

Carlos goes, “Pretty good play? Did you know who was at third base?’ ‘No, who was it?’ And he goes, ‘Oh, OK, I guess it wasn’t (a good play).’ But at first he goes, ‘That’s a hell of a play, he just bunted it too hard.’”

Simmons was out of the lineup for Sunday afternoon’s series finale, but Gonzalez said it had nothing to do with the bunt. The shortstop has struggled lately and been a little banged up, and Gonzalez said he wanted to give him Sunday off so he’d have two days to rest coupled with the team’s day off Monday before a two-game series at Seattle.

“He gets beat up so easily, and I just want to make sure he’s (healthy),” Gonzalez said. “Anytime we get one of those chances to give him a day off, we’ll give him a day off. You see him running around and diving, I just want to make sure he’s good.”

Asked if Simmons’ shoulder was a manageable situation, Gonzalez said, “You’ve seen him make throws. His shoulder’s fine. I mean, is it 100 percent? No. But it’s not 50 percent. It’s good enough.”

Simmons started July with six consecutive two-hit games and was 18-for-46 (.391) with a .457 slugging percentage in an 11-game stretch through July 12. In 16 games since, he’s 8-for-56 (.143) with nine walks and a .196 slugging percentage.

He was asked if his shoulder had anything to do with his offensive struggles and decision to bunt Saturday.

“No, that’s not it at all,” Simmons said, then repeated it for emphasis. “That’s not it. At all. It’s just I wasn’t feeling comfortable at the plate yesterday, wasn’t seeing the ball as good. So I went with that.”

Simmons said if the shoulder was an issue affecting his performance, it would be apparent (i.e., in his throws).

“Every once in a while, like yesterday there was a play where I dove, landed on it,” he said. “It goes away. It hurts for a little bit and then it’s fine.”