Rookie Tommy La Stella was hitting .364 (24-for-66) with a .425 on-base percentage through his first 18 major league games when Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez decided to move the rookie up to the top of the lineup last week.
In the six games since then, entering Wednesday night, La Stella was just 2-for-his-past-24 (.083) with a .154 on-base percentage.
La Stella spent five of those games in the leadoff spot but when he struggled there, Gonzalez dropped him to the No. 2 spot behind B.J. Upton, a place where he might be better suited to begin with.
La Stella and Gonzalez both indicated Wednesday, they believe it’s more a result of pitchers adjusting to him, than him pressing in a bigger role in the lineup.
“I haven’t made it any easier on myself a little bit lately, swinging at some pitches I shouldn’t be swinging at,” La Stella said. “But it’s going to happen, when you’re facing good quality arms. They’re going to make pitches and you’re going to swing at some stuff that you shouldn’t swing at.”
La Stella said he’s used the same approach at the plate, whether he was hitting seventh, first or second.
“It doesn’t really matter where I’m hitting in the lineup, what all is going on around me,” La Stella said. “It’s not really affected me. I stick to what I do, stick to my same approach.”
Gonzalez is practicing patience with a young player, something he expected him to have to endure as the league and scouting reports caught up to him.
“There’s a learning curve in the major leagues when you come up,” Gonzalez said. “If you go out the first time out, nobody knows who you are, they’ll pitch to you. And then all of a sudden they start getting videos on you, they start getting advanced scouts, there are adjustments to be made. I believe that he can make those adjustments because I saw him in spring training do it. But everybody goes through it.”
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