Even though the Braves are facing a right-hander in the Marlins’ Clay Hensley tonight, Jason Heyward is riding the pine in favor of the Braves’ newest sparkplug, Jose Constanza. It’s the second straight day on the bench for the 2010 All-Star, who is celebrating his 22nd birthday. He’s sitting even though he homered and walked in three plate appearances Sunday.
Constanza, a modern day Bo Hart, is 16-for-38 since debuting on July 29. He even homered Sunday against the Mets. He has two homers in 371 at-bats between Triple-A and the majors this season, matching his high total in seven seasons as a pro.
As much of a disappointment as Heyward has been this season, he’s still hitting .244/.339/.440 against right-handed pitchers. It’s hard to blame the Braves for wanting to keep Constanza in there when he’s on fire, but there’s a good argument for using Heyward over Martin Prado against a righty. Prado is hitting .265/.300/.412 versus right-handers, and the Braves are better defensively with Constanza in left and Heyward in right than with Prado in left and Constanza in right.
But Prado, even though he’s struggled moreso than Heyward since coming off the DL, is the established player and Heyward is still young and proving himself, at least in manager Fredi Gonzalez’s eyes. We’ll see how it plays out for the Braves, who have won four out of five games after a shaky start to the second half.
On Monday, Major League Baseball announced some changes aimed at improving the game’s pace of play, something that has been a pet cause for commissioner Rob Manfred. Among the changes was a limit on mound visits whether from managers and coaches, the catcher, or other defenders. Each team will have six non-pitching change mound visits per game and one additional visit each inning in extra innings. Craig wrote more in depth on the changes here if you happened to miss it.
Angels catcher Martin Maldonado says he is going to do what’s necessary to stay on the same page with his pitchers. Via Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register, Maldonado said, “If the game is on the line, I’m going to go out there. If we’re at six [visits], and it’s going to be the seventh, I’m going to go out there, even if I have to pay a fine. I’m there for the pitchers.”
Cubs catcher Willson Contreras said as much on Tuesday. Per Josh Frydman of WGN News, Contreras said, “What about if you have a tight game and you have to go out there? They can’t say anything about that, that’s my team and we just care about wins. If they’re going to fine me about number seven mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”
Exhibition games haven’t even started yet, but two notable backstops — the lesser-known Maldonado won a Gold Glove last year — are clearly not happy with the rule change. As Craig alluded to in his article yesterday, arguments between catchers and umpires (and, subsequently, managers and umpires) are probably going to become more frequent, which would likely end up nullifying any pace of play improvements.
Update (4:43 PM ET): In response to this, Manfred said that if a catcher or coach made a seventh mound visit, there would have to be a pitching change (via Fletcher). However, chief baseball officer Joe Torre said (via SB Nation’s Eric Stephen) that the seventh visit cannot trigger a pitching change. The umpire would simply have to prevent the seventh mound visit.