6/25/2014 1:57 A.M. ET
Braves move B.J. Upton up to leadoff spot
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- As some fans were calling for him to drop B.J. Upton down in the lineup, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez opted to put the veteran center fielder and his below .300 on-base percentage in the leadoff spot for Tuesday night's series opener against the Astros.
"I've got a good feeling about it," Gonzalez said. "We're just trying to find a sparkplug in the first couple of spots there."
Gonzalez's hunch proved profitable when Upton hit a third-inning solo homer in a 3-2 win. The manager said the veteran center fielder will be back in the leadoff spot on Wednesday. But he's not necessarily married to this arrangement yet.
"He can do a lot of stuff if he gets on base," Gonzalez said. "We'll see how it plays out. I don't want it to be a knee-jerk reaction type of deal. I'll give it a few games. I can't tell you off the top of my head how many. But we'll let it play out."
When the Braves opted to move Jason Heyward to the middle of the lineup last week, Tommy La Stella was given a chance to fill the leadoff spot just three weeks into his career. But the left-handed-hitting La Stella then suddenly lost his usual disciplined approach and ended up going 2-for-20 with two walks in the five games he filled the lineup's top spot.
"With his approach and the way he swings, I think he can hit anywhere," Gonzalez said. "That's why we tried him in the leadoff spot. If you look at the way he takes pitches, the way he walks and the way he covers pitches with his bat -- other than the running aspect -- he could be a good leadoff candidate. He can do that in the two-hole, too."
Gonzalez believes La Stella could prove effective in the two-hole, where his ability to consistently put the ball in play could prove valuable. But with the rookie second baseman in that spot and Freddie Freeman entrenched in the third spot, the manager believed he needed to place a right-handed hitter in the leadoff spot.
Essentially, Gonzalez deemed Upton was a better option than the only other logical candidate, Andrelton Simmons, who flopped in that role last year, hitting .219 with a .256 on-base percentage in the 64 games he occupied the top spot.
Of course, Upton hit .178 with a .256 on-base percentage in the 19 games he filled the leadoff spot last year. These numbers are similar to the .192 batting average and .270 OBP he has compiled through the first 198 games of his Atlanta career.
But Gonzalez is holding out hope that Upton will be able to regain some of the promise he produced when he hit .268 with a .354 on-base percentage over 15 games that stretched from May 19-June 3. Upton has batted .156 with a .207 on-base percentage in the 17 games that have followed.
Upton did bat .249 with a .331 on-base percentage in the 167 games he filled the leadoff spot for the Rays from 2004-12.
"At this point, I've bounced around so much that I don't really feel uncomfortable anywhere," Upton said. "I think in the leadoff spot, pitchers come at you a little bit more because of the threat of guys behind you. I think it just gives me an opportunity to use my legs a little more. That has been such a huge part of my game. I think this will open that door a little more."
Upton brothers both homer to tie MLB record
HOUSTON -- As B.J. Upton and Justin Upton spent their first three weeks together with the Braves, it seemed like they might make homering on the same night a regular occurrence. But they actually ended up halting this run for 14 months before resuming in record-tying fashion.
The Upton brothers matched a Major League record when they both homered during Tuesday night's 3-2 win over the Astros at Minute Maid Park. This marked the fourth time they had homered in the same game as teammates. The only other brother combos to match this total are Vladimir and Wilton Guerrero and Jason and Jeremy Giambi.
"It's pretty cool," B.J. Upton said. "Anytime you can tie a Major League Baseball record, it's pretty cool. I kind of knew we were close, but I didn't know how close. It's cool to say you did it. We're not going to try to break it, but hopefully we do."
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Uptons have now played 185 games together with the Braves. The Guerreros appeared in 345 games as teammates and the Giambis 219.
The Upton brothers both homered in three of the first 20 games they played together. But that hot start proved to be unsustainable.
Before Tuesday, the Braves had played 217 games since the brothers had last homered in the same game -- the second game of a doubleheader on April 23, 2013, at Coors Field.
"It's always special when you can do it on the same day and contribute to a win," Justin Upton said. "We're excited about it. Hopefully, there is more of that to come."
B.J. Upton got Tuesday's power surge rolling when he hit a one-out home run off Astros starter Scott Feldman in the third inning. His brother got into the act one inning later when he sent a two-out solo shot that nearly struck the train high above the left-center-field wall.
"Both of those guys are so talented and they can really change a game," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "They're game-changers. Hopefully, we can continue to see this from them."
Bethancourt, Peraza named to Futures Game roster
HOUSTON -- Christian Bethancourt and Jose Peraza have spent the first few months of this season providing further indication that they have the potential to be impact players once they reach the Major League level. Next month, they'll find themselves together with some of baseball's other top prospects.
Bethancourt and Peraza will serve as the Braves' representatives for the 2014 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game, which will be played on July 13 at Minneapolis' Target Field. This annual event will pit the United States prospects against prospects who were born abroad.
While this marks the third straight season Bethancourt has been selected to participate, Peraza will be experiencing the event for the first time. Both will be part of the World roster.
Considered one of the game's top defensive catching prospects, Bethancourt started to show some promise with the bat last year, and he has continued to provide encouragement this year. The 22-year-old catcher, and No. 2-ranked Braves prospect, has hit .265 with a .658 OPS through 59 games with Triple-A Gwinnett. In the 43 games he has played dating back to April 29, he has batted .294 with a .314 on-base percentage and a .419 slugging percentage.
Peraza, ranked No. 3 in the Braves' system, has been regarded as a player who could serve as Atlanta's starting second baseman and leadoff hitter at least by the start of the 2016 season. The 20-year-old infielder was promoted after he hit .342 with 35 stolen bases (42 attempts) in 66 games with Class A Advanced Lynchburg. In the five games he has played since joining Double-A Mississippi, he has hit .522 and proven successful with two of his three stolen-base attempts.
"I saw [Peraza] in instructional league," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He's athletic. His natural position is shortstop and now he's learning the nuances of playing second base. He's hit at every level he's been and he can also steal bases. He's got speed and thievery. That's a good combination."
Freeman trying to make late push for ASG start
HOUSTON -- Freddie Freeman received his first All-Star selection when he garnered more votes than any other player in the history of the Final Vote balloting process in 2013. The Braves first baseman will need a similar late push to gain the chance to serve as the National League's starting first baseman at this year's All-Star Game.
When the latest balloting results were revealed on Monday, Freeman ranked third among NL first basemen, trailing the leader Paul Goldschmidt by approximately 850,000 votes and Adrian Gonzalez by approximately 120,000 votes.
Freeman struggled through the latter part of May and early part of June. But he has strengthened his candidacy as he has batted .375 with a 1.030 OPS in his past nine games.
Fans can cast their votes for starters at MLB.com and all 30 club sites -- online or on a mobile device -- using the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by Experian until Thursday, July 3, at 11:59 p.m. ET. The 2014 All-Star Game will be played at Target Field on Tuesday, July 15.
• Dr. David Altchek will perform another surgical procedure on Gavin Floyd's right elbow on Wednesday morning. Thirteen months after performing Tommy John surgery on Floyd, Altchek will insert screws into the right elbow to repair the broken olecranon the right-hander suffered while pitching against the Nationals on Thursday. A potential timetable for Floyd is expected to be announced on Wednesday.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.