ATLANTA -- The honoring of two civil rights leaders will highlight the inaugural Atlanta Braves Heritage Weekend, which begins on Friday and continues with a series of exhibits and attractions throughout the series against the Nationals.
Former Georgia Congressman and United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young and former state senator Leroy Johnson will be honored as the first recipients of the Hank Aaron Champion for Justice Award during a panel discussion on Friday morning at Turner Field. Panelists for the discussion include former Tuskegee Airman Val Archer, former NBA player Bernard King, former Brave Brian Jordan and Tommie Smith, the 1968 Olympic gold medalist in the 200-meter track-and-field event. The discussion will be moderated by Doug Shipman, CEO for the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.
The Braves organized the weekend in conjunction with the National Center for Civil and Human Rights to pay tribute to Atlanta's strong connection with the Civil Rights Movement throughout the city's history. Atlanta hosted Major League Baseball's Civil Rights Game in 2011 and 2012.
Fans will be able to explore exhibits showcasing the history of the Negro Leagues and the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, America's first black military airmen. The "Rise Above" Exhibit will be held at Monument Grove outside Turner Field on each gameday from 11 a.m. ET until the sixth inning, and the Negro League Exhibit will take place in the Hank Aaron Room inside the ballpark from the time the gates are open until the end of the game.
Before the Friday and Saturday games, there will be a flyover by one of the P-51 planes used by the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II. On Saturday morning the Braves will hold a youth baseball clinic run by Braves alumni and Chance Bream, from the East Cobb Baseball Academy. Saturday night's game will honor the Negro League with a pregame tribute featuring a number of former players, and both teams will wear Negro League uniforms: The Braves will wear the uniforms of Atlanta Black Crackers, and the Nationals will don those of the Homestead (D.C.) Grays.
In addition, hip-hop group Run DMC will perform following Saturday's game.
Braves make tough decision and designate Francisco
ATLANTA -- When the Braves went back to a seven-man bullpen on Thursday, they were forced to make the tough roster decision that they had been able to delay while using a six-man 'pen over the previous two weeks.
To make room for the arrival of highly regarded pitching prospect Alex Wood, the Braves designated third baseman Juan Francisco for assignment. The Braves now have 10 days to either trade, release or outright Francisco to the Minors.
Early indications are that the Braves will be able to trade the left-handed slugger within the next few days.
"We've got discussions going with a number of different clubs," general manager Frank Wren said. "I think we'll be able to trade him and get something back. I think it's best for us, and for Juan, that he'll get an opportunity to go to the big leagues with somebody else."
When the Braves acquired Francisco from the Reds just before the start of the 2012 season, they were hoping to benefit from his tremendous power potential and help him prove more consistent than he was in the past.
Although there were some flashes of promise, Francisco ended up hitting .237 with 14 home runs and a .701 OPS in the 300 at-bats he compiled for Atlanta.
Francisco hit .316 with four home runs and 18 strikeouts in his first 57 at-bats this season but has batted .157 with two extra-base hits and 25 strikeouts in the 51 at-bats that followed.
"The depth of our team has always been our strength," Wren said. "Looking at the moves we could potentially make that would keep our depth and keep our flexibility for [manager] Fredi [Gonzalez], we felt this was the move we could most afford to make."
Fredi gives B.J. Upton, Uggla, Heyward a rest
ATLANTA -- Manager Fredi Gonzalez has become steadily more concerned about the lack of production he has received over the past couple weeks from B.J. Upton, Dan Uggla and Jason Heyward.
So when he awoke on Thursday and began devising his lineup for that night's game against Toronto knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, he decided he would sit all three. This gave him a chance to get Evan Gattis, Jordan Schafer and Ramiro Pena in the lineup.
The decision paid immediate dividends, with Schafer scoring on a RBI single in the first inning, and Pena plating Gattis with a base hit in the second.
"Sometimes it just helps to sit back, relax and watch the game," Gonzalez said. "Whether it's one game or whatever, it usually works. I suspect those guys are upset, and that is good to see also. You don't want to have a guy who is happy about not playing.
"In the long run, those guys that aren't playing today, we'll win a championship with those guys."
Although he has homered five times in his past 61 at-bats, Uggla has batted just .164 in that span. He has just one hit, a home run, in 26 career at-bats against Dickey.
Heyward has shown some promise, as he has consistently hit the ball the opposite way since missing nearly a month after undergoing an appendectomy. He has hit .195 with a respectable .395 on-base percentage in the 11 games he has played since returning.
Upton's struggles are the most alarming, as he is just two months into a five-year, $75.25 million contract. Thursday marked the fourth time in a span of five games he was left out of the lineup.
Upton has hit .146 with four home runs and a .478 OPS through his first 45 games with Atlanta. His batting average and OPS rank as the lowest produced by any qualified Major Leaguer this season.
"I think at the end of the year, B.J. will be our center fielder," Gonzalez said, "but we've got to get him going and get him straightened out. We will. I have not put a timetable on [how many games he will miss]. I think our No. 1 goal is to get him straightened out."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. Eric Single is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.