04/28/2013 8:16 PM ET
Schafer becomes fourth hitter to bat leadoff for Braves
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
DETROIT -- As the past few weeks have elapsed, the Braves have been constantly reminded that they do not have a legitimate leadoff hitter on their roster. Andrelton Simmons, who began the season in that role, has shown some recent signs of encouragement.
But when his team concluded what has been a disappointing 10-game road trip with Sunday night's game against the Tigers, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez penciled Jordan Schafer's name at the top of his lineup. Just 24 games into the season, Schafer became the fourth leadoff hitter the Braves have utilized.
"We don't have that perfect candidate, and there is very little out there at the Major League level that is the perfect candidate to be the leadoff guy," Gonzalez said.
With the Nationals starting three right-handed pitchers during this week's series, Schafer could get a few more starts at the top of the lineup. But Gonzalez said he has not given up on the idea of continuing to try Simmons in the leadoff role.
Braves leadoff hitters entered Sunday ranked 28th in the Majors with a .211 batting average and 27th with a .276 on-base percentage. The second spot in their lineup ranked last in the Majors with a .126 batting average and 26th with a .252 OBP.
As a result, the Braves have not been able to take full advantage of the power supplied by Justin Upton, who hit 11 of his Major League-leading 12 home runs without any runners on base.
Upton was the only Braves player to play in each of the first 23 games and he batted third in each game. But he entered Sunday with just 12 at-bats with runners in scoring position. Four of his teammates had recorded a higher total.
Gattis could play some left when McCann returns
DETROIT -- When Brian McCann returns from the disabled list, the Braves will have to determine exactly how to use him and their other two catchers -- Evan Gattis and Gerald Laird. The decision will be influenced by what happens while McCann spends at least the next 10 days completing his Minor League rehab stint.
But as things currently stand, it does not appear Gattis will be sent to Triple-A Gwinnett to serve as the everyday catcher.
"Gattis hasn't given us any reason for him not to [stay]," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He's hit at the Major League level. He's got six home runs. There's no reason for him to go to Triple-A. We'll see how that dynamic works."
McCann's rehab stint is slated to carry through at least the early portion of next week. If he continues to show his surgically repaired right shoulder is strong enough, he could be activated next week when the Braves are in Cincinnati or San Francisco.
Gonzalez said he does not envision immediately throwing McCann into a regular everyday role. In other words, he would catch four or five consecutive days and then take a day off. Still this creates reason to wonder exactly how Laird, who is in the first year of a two-year deal, and Gattis will be utilized.
With Jason Heyward currently recovering from appendix surgery, Gonzalez suggested the Braves could utilize Gattis in left field and move Justin Upton to right field until Heyward is healthy enough to return to the lineup.
Heyward would be eligible to return from the disabled list on May 6. But the 23-year-old right fielder has battled some fatigue since undergoing Monday's surgical procedure and might need some additional time to recover.
Playing Gattis in left field is just one of the many options the Braves could weigh while evaluating this situation over the course of the next week.
"That's nine or 10 days down the road," Gonzalez said. "We always worry about that, and then somebody rolls an ankle or something before you have to make a decision and you've got to put him on the DL. There's always something crazy that comes up."
Beachy could begin Minors rehab stint next week
DETROIT -- Brandon Beachy could begin a Minor League rehab stint next week, with the hope of joining Atlanta's starting rotation by the middle of June.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said Beachy will throw live batting practice two or three more times before being cleared to begin a rehab stint that would likely include at least six starts at the Minor League level.
If this schedule holds true, Beachy could actually rejoin Atlanta's rotation during a six-game road trip that begins on June 6 in Los Angeles and concludes on June 12 in San Diego. This would put him at least a week ahead of the schedule that was envisioned when he underwent Tommy John surgery last June 21.
Beachy was leading the Majors with a 2.00 ERA when he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow last year.
• While B.J. Upton got a chance to rest on Sunday, Dan Uggla was utilized as the designated hitter. This gave Tyler Pastornicky a chance to make his first start of the season at second base.
• McCann will catch the first game of Class A Rome's doubleheader in Greensboro on Monday morning. First pitch is scheduled for 10:45 a.m. ET. The need for a doubleheader was created when Sunday's game between Rome and Greensboro was postponed by rain.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.