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.
With Game 6 of the NLCS just hours away, the Dodgers will opt for a lefty-heavy lineup against right-hander Kyle Hendricks. Batting leadoff is rookie outfielder Andrew Toles, who made one appearance at the top of the lineup during the 2016 season. The Cubs, meanwhile, will bench Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.. This will be Almora’s first start of the playoffs, and while he has yet to face Kershaw in October, his right-handed bat could play well against the lefty at the bottom of the lineup.
Game time is scheduled for 8 PM EDT; lineups are below.
1. Andrew Toles (L) LF
6. Wilson Contreras (R) C
8. Albert Almora Jr. (R) RF
9. Kyle Hendricks (R) RHP
UPDATE, 5:08 PM EDT: Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon will not rule out a World Series appearance for Kyle Schwarber if the Cubs advance. MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat reports that Schwarber could play through a simulated game on Sunday, during which the Cubs’ medical and baseball staff would evaluate his chances for a late season return. If he does play, it will likely be in a pinch-hitting or DH role and not on the field.
Cubs’ outfielder Kyle Schwarber will return to the playing field on Saturday, per a report by the Chicago Tribune’s Mark Gonzales. The club’s prized left fielder suffered a season-ending injury when he collided with Dexter Fowler back in April, tearing both his ACL and LCL and undergoing intensive knee surgery later that month.
While no nerve damage was discovered during the surgery, the Cubs have kept a close eye on Schwarber during his recovery and put a kibosh on any part-time or full-time role with the team until the spring of 2017. Getting a few reps in during the Arizona Fall League appears to be the last step in the 23-year-old’s rehab process. He will be part of the Mesa Solar Sox’ ‘taxi squad,’ making him eligible for games on Wednesdays and Saturdays only.
Schwarber batted .246/.355/.487 with 16 in 69 games with the Cubs during his debut season in 2015. He will be added to the Mesa Solar Sox roster in advance of their set against the Salt River Rafters on Saturday evening.