4/6/2013 6:46 P.M. ET
B.J. Upton hopes hitting leadoff leads to hits
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- B.J. Upton's first four games with the Braves did not go according to plan. But the veteran center fielder got a chance to shake things up when he was moved to the leadoff spot to replace the injured Andrelton Simmons on Saturday night.
The move proved to be beneficial, as Upton's presence at the top of the lineup allowed him to experience something special. His game-tying homer to open the bottom of the ninth set the stage for his younger brother Justin Upton to give the Braves a 6-5 win over the Cubs with the walk-off home run over the wall in center.
B.J.'s home run was his first with the Braves, who signed him to a franchise record five-year, $75.25 million contract in November. Two innings earlier, he had notched his first hit with an infield single that snapped the 0-for-16 stretch that began his career in Atlanta.
"We're winning, and that's the main thing," B.J. said. "I'll get it together and start hitting the ball a little bit better. But overall, the goal is to win."
Upton is certainly not the first player to experience a slow start after signing a large contract the previous offseason. Even the calm, cool and collected Greg Maddux said he felt added pressure after he signed as a free agent with the Braves before the start of the 2003 season.
"His at-bats just kept getting better and better through the course of the week," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I think after the chopper base hit, he got the curse off his back a little bit."
Simmons is expected to return to the lineup by Monday. At that point, B.J. will likely return to the lineup's fifth spot.
Simmons scratched from lineup with sore thumb
ATLANTA -- Andrelton Simmons arrived at Turner Field expecting to play in Saturday night's game against the Cubs. But after informing the Braves medical staff that his right thumb was sore, the shortstop was reminded teams are not going to take any chances with injuries at this early point of the season.
"I feel good enough to go out there," Simmons said. "If it was up to me, I'd put myself in the lineup. They're trying to make the best decision for the team and [for me]. I understand. I didn't expect to be taken out [of the lineup]. Otherwise, I wouldn't have said anything."
Simmons was scratched from the lineup late Saturday afternoon. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez indicated he will likely let Simmons rest until at least Monday.
Ramiro Pena will play shortstop and B.J. Upton will bat leadoff in Simmons' absence.
"For me, it's OK if it's just day-to-day," Gonzalez said. "It gives Pena a chance to play a little bit. We always talk about how good our team is. One of our greatest challenges is playing everybody. Now Pena gets to play a little bit."
Simmons injured his thumb as he completed a head-first slide while stealing second base during the third inning of Friday night's win over the Cubs. This injury is nowhere near as serious as the fractured right pinky finger he sustained while sliding head first into second base during a July 8 game in Philadelphia.
After missing two months because of the fracture, Simmons said he would likely continue to slide head first. This latest setback has not altered his mindset.
"It's just how I feel faster," Simmons said. "Maybe I'll put something in my hand that makes it easier sliding. But I doubt I'll just plain stop sliding head first."
Gonzalez said he and his coaches have warned Simmons and other players about the danger of sliding head first.
"We talk about it all of the time," Gonzalez said. "Don't slide head first. Slide feet first and you won't get hurt. But boys are boys."
• Mike Minor has compiled a 2.09 ERA in 15 starts since last year's All-Star break. The only other Major League pitcher with a better ERA during that span is the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw (1.94).
• Justin Upton hit his third home run in his 11th at-bat and fourth game of this season. His third home run last year came on May 2, in his 72nd at-bat and 22nd game of the season.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.