5/6/2014 11:03 P.M. ET
Pena back on bench; Uggla starts at second
By Mark Bowman and Joe Morgan / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- After providing the Braves' slumbering offense a spark with a home run and a double in Monday night's loss to the Cardinals, Ramiro Pena found himself back in a familiar reserve role on Tuesday night.
Such is life for many players like Pena, who have established themselves as valuable bench players whose time in the starting lineup is often limited to those occasions when they provide a favorable matchup against an opposing pitcher.
While it is often said that these players are susceptible to being "exposed" if they play on a regular basis, manager Fredi Gonzalez said he would not publicly use that term in reference to Pena, who served as a backup with the Yankees before coming to Atlanta last year to strength the Braves' bench.
"I don't think he's ever been given the opportunity to play every day," Gonzalez said. "You hate to label somebody when they're never given the opportunity. But I think with the right matchups and the right amount of games, he has been productive. If something happens to one our infielders and you have to run him out there for two or three weeks, you feel comfortable."
Gonzalez was comfortable to utilize the switch-hitting Pena during Monday night's matchup against Cardinals starting pitcher Shelby Miller, who has been most successful against right-handed hitters. But with St. Louis starting southpaw Tyler Lyons on Tuesday, Gonzalez opted to put his right-handed second baseman Dan Uggla back in the lineup for just the fifth time in the past eight games.
Though he recorded Monday night's home run from the right side, Pena has most often been paired against right-handed pitchers. Since the start of last year, he has batted . 192 (5-for-26) as a right-handed hitter and .291 (30-for-103) as a left-handed hitter.
"He gives you good at-bats," Gonzalez said. "You match him up with the right pitcher and he gives you really, really good at-bats. His defense is A-plus, whether he's playing short, third or second base. You never lose any defense. Sometimes, you're even better off with him at some defensive positions."
With speculation swirling that Uggla's days as a regular in the Braves' lineup might be numbered, the Braves have the option of platooning Pena and Tyler Pastornicky at second base. But they are also now evaluating the possibility of promoting Tommy La Stella from Triple-A Gwinnett.
If La Stella gets the call, he would likely be used on an everyday basis. This would mean Pena would continue to serve as a bench player, a role he does not mind as long as he gets the regular at-bats he needs to be productive when he is called upon to pinch-hit or make a spot start.
"You need to get a rhythm," Pena said. "It's not easy being on the bench and not getting [at-bats] for four or five days. It gets your timing off. Sometimes pitches look harder than they are, and the breaking balls look nasty. It's tough. But if you get more playing time, you get better."
After rare error, Simmons admits pressure of skid
ATLANTA -- Stuck in the rut of a seven-game losing streak, Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons admits that he and his teammates are perhaps pressing, saying, "Maybe we're trying to do too much."
"There's a little urgency," Simmons said. "You want to win. You don't want to keep losing. It's not comfortable. It's not OK. You want to win that game, and you try to do a little too much sometimes."
Simmons feels he pressed when trying to field a grounder up the middle off the bat of Mark Ellis in the fifth inning of the Braves' 4-3 loss to the Cardinals on Monday night at Turner Field.
Simmons botched a potential double-play ball with St. Louis pitcher Shelby Miller standing in the on-deck circle. With two men on and no outs, Miller bunted them over, and Matt Carpenter brought them home on a two-run double.
"I might have tried to hurry to see if I had a play at second, and that might have taken my eye off the ball a little bit or make me come up a little early instead of securing the ball and just going to first," Simmons said.
The error led to two unearned runs in a three-run fifth for St. Louis on a night that saw Atlanta generate some offensive momentum. The Braves tallied nine hits and scored three runs, matching their three-game total from their series loss to the Giants.
"I think if it wasn't for that error, we would've won the game," Simmons said. "If we play solid defense, I think we would have had that game, because we hit well."
Although the Braves improved at the plate on Monday night, they continued to struggle in the clutch. Evan Gattis notched a run-scoring single for Atlanta's lone hit in 12 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
During the seven-game skid, the Braves batted just .118 (6-for-51) with runners in scoring position. Even though Monday ended in defeat, the players were encouraged.
"I felt like we were more in the game," Simmons said. "I felt like the guys were more focused up there. I mean, yeah, we're not going to be perfect. We're going to swing at a pitch high, we're going to chase sliders in the dirt. ... But I thought we did a better job than we did in games before."
Ervin ditches thumb wrap, likely will start Saturday
ATLANTA -- Ervin Santana is no longer wearing a wrap on his bruised right thumb, and the Braves right-hander says he is feeling better. He is expected to make his next scheduled start on Saturday against the Cubs.
Right-hander Gavin Floyd got the nod to start Tuesday night in place of Santana, who suffered the bruise when Reds pitcher Homer Bailey jammed him with an inside pitch in a 5-4 win on April 25 at Turner Field.
Santana dealt with some swelling near the end of his next start last Thursday at Marlins Park, resulting in the Braves' decision to skip him in the rotation on Tuesday night. Santana is 3-0 with a 2.41 ERA and four quality starts in five turns this season.
Making his first start since undergoing Tommy John surgery on May 7, 2013, Floyd gave up only one run on six hits in seven innings in Tuesday night's 2-1 win over the Cardinals.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. Joe Morgan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.