Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman is expected to rejoin the team tomorrow after a stint on the disabled list with a strained right oblique. In Freeman’s absence, Chris Johnson — acquired with Justin Upton from Arizona — has been getting the lion’s share of the playing time at first base and has impressed offensively. Johnson is now hitting .407 and has been the Braves’ most reliable hitter this side of Justin Upton.
The Braves had been using Johnson in a platoon with the left-handed Juan Francisco, but manager Fredi Gonzalez has been enamored with Johnson’s hitting enough to hand him the everyday job now that Freeman is taking back his position at first base.
Via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Carroll Rogers:
When Freeman returns to first base, Gonzalez is expected to give Johnson the every-day role at third base, instead of platooning with Juan Francisco.
Gonzalez hinted at it on Saturday and by Sunday it sounded like a foregone conclusion.
“Guy is leading the league in hitting, you know?” Gonzalez said. “We’re not exactly hitting on all cylinders, so…”
Freeman was hitting .412 with a home run in 19 plate appearances before being sidelined with the injury.
Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.
I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.
I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.
As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.
There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.
Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.
Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.
With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.