Slumping La Stella sits opener vs. Phillies

Exactly a month after his major league call-up, Tommy La Stella got his first day out of the lineup – a decision Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez made for Friday’s series opener against the Phillies after the rookie second baseman had gone 3-for-40 over his previous 10 games.

“Just going to give Tommy a little breather,” Gonzalez said. “We brought Tommy up in Boston and we threw him right in the fire. So this afternoon I said ‘Hey listen, I want you to relax and watch a major league game. This is the first time you ever get an opportunity to do that since you’ve been up here.’”

Gonzalez joked that his only mistake was doing it while La Stella was playing just two hours from his hometown of Westwood, N.J., with his parents coming for the game. But Gonzalez said he planned to get La Stella back in the lineup in the No. 2 hole for Saturday’s double header.

Friday night Gonzalez moved Andrelton Simmons up to the No. 2 spot and gave Dan Uggla his first start at second base since June 7 in Arizona, batting eighth. Uggla has 13 home runs and 48 RBIs at Citizens Bank Park, his best production of any road ballpark. (He spent five seasons playing at SunLife Stadium with the Marlins.) Uggla hit a game-winning grand slam at Citizens Bank Park in a two-homer game April 14.

Uggla was also hitting .308 (12-for-39) with two home runs and seven RBIs against Friday’s Phillies’ starter Kyle Kendrick.

La Stella had started 26 straight games entering the series, and after a torrid start the rookie has cooled considerably. La Stella hit .364 (24-for-66) with a .425 on-base percentage through his first 18 games.

He was hitting so well Gonzalez decided to give him a shot at the leadoff spot, but he went 2-for-20 in five games there. He played three games in Houston in the No. 2 spot and went 0-for-10 there to drop his season average to .271, though he drove in a couple of runs with productive outs.

“He’s fine,” Gonzalez said. “You know that people are going to go through it, established major league hitters go through it. They go through a little period where the balls are not dropping. But even with the struggles he’s gotten a couple RBIs because he’s been able to put the ball in play. That’s the good thing about it.”

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