8/2/2014 3:41 A.M. ET
Russell excited to jump into race for October
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
SAN DIEGO -- After the Braves acquired left-hander James Russell from the Cubs on Thursday afternoon, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez called his newest reliever. But he was initially given a number that put him in touch with Russell's father, Jeff, a former Major League pitcher.
"When he answered, I said, 'Hey, you in the clubhouse still?'" Gonzalez said. "He said, 'No, not yet, this is Jeff Russell.' I said, 'Oh, Mr. Russell, I'm sorry.' He said, 'Don't call me Mr. Russell, I'm about the same age you are.'"
Though Gonzalez never crossed paths with the elder Russell, two members of his coaching staff did. During Jeff Russell's 14-season career, he counted Atlanta's pitching coach Roger McDowell and assistant hitting coach Scott Fletcher among his teammates.
"It's kind of cool," said the new Braves lefty. "It's different to be around guys who are used to me being around knee-high running around in a locker room."
The Braves spent the past few weeks looking for a left-handed bullpen arm and ended up with Russell, who over the past few months has not fit the description of a traditional lefty reliever. From 2010-13, the 28-year-old southpaw limited left-handed hitters to a .232 batting average and .264 on-base percentage.
This year, Russell has limited right-handed hitters to a .103 (6-for-58) batting average and .243 on-base percentage this year. But, left-handed hitters have batted .295 (18-for-61) with a .358 on-base percentage against him.
"Lefties have been hitting me better, but it's nothing I'm too worried about," said Russell, who believes the key to improving against left-handers is his ability to locate his fastball and consequently gain a chance to use his slider regularly.
Russell and Emilio Bonifacio, who was also acquired in the trade, both said they were looking forward to experience the pennant-race pressure they would not have experienced with the Cubs.
"Every game means something," Russell said. "Not that they didn't mean anything in Chicago. You still plan on going out there and winning. There's just more of sense of urgency to win here. It shows, being in that pennant race year in and year out."
Hale apologizes for waving off trainer, manager
SAN DIEGO -- The usually mild-mannered David Hale was very remorseful about expressing his emotions in a manner that incensed manager Fredi Gonzalez and added to the ugliness of the 10-1 loss the Braves suffered against the Padres on Friday night at Petco Park.
After being grazed by a comebacker during the seventh inning, a frustrated Hale used his left hand to shoo away trainer Jeff Porter and Gonzalez. As they continued coming toward the mound, he brushed them away again in a more demonstrative manner and said something to Porter.
"My emotions were running high," Hale said. "I pride myself on treating people the right way and being appreciative of what they do for me. I'm more disappointed about the way I acted toward Mr. Porter, Jeff Porter. I think it was completely the wrong thing to do. We talked to each other and we love each other. It's all behind us."
Gonzalez got in Hale's face and provided some choice words before heading back to the dugout.
"It bothered me," Gonzalez said. "I know about his competitive frustration, anger or whatever word you want to use. But those aren't the right actions, especially toward a guy [Porter] who wants to help him. When the guys get hurt, who is the first one they call?"
After being asked to warm up multiple times as starting pitcher Mike Minor struggled during the early innings, Hale finally entered in the seventh and proceeded to give up hits to six of the eight batters he faced.
"When you're getting hit around like that, your emotions start going pretty crazy," Hale said. "I wasn't able to take it out on the hitters and get them out. I took it out on a sitting duck, the guy who is out there trying to do the best for me. It's being a poor human being on my part."
Bonifacio in starting lineup with Heyward resting
SAN DIEGO -- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez will allow matchups and trends to dictate how often he places the versatile Emilio Bonifacio in his starting lineup. But with Jason Heyward still nursing a sore back on Friday, Bonifacio found himself in right field on his first day with the club.
"If Jason was healthy, then he doesn't play today," Gonzalez said in reference to Bonifacio, who served as the starting right fielder in Friday night's game against the Padres.
When Bonifacio was acquired from the Cubs late Thursday afternoon, Braves general manager Frank Wren and Gonzalez both made it perfectly clear that the versatile veteran was most valuable when used as a super utility man, who makes a few starts a week at a couple of different positions.
Still, some fans seemed to think Bonifacio would would occasionally spell B.J. Upton in center field and the leadoff spot. But Gonzalez seemed to kill this thought once again courtesy of his comment above and the decision to bat Bonifacio eighth during Friday night's game against the Padres.
Gonzalez said he had no desire to mess with Upton, who had batted .250 with a .309 on-base percentage in the 31 games he had played since moving to the leadoff role on June 24. Those numbers might not scream leadoff hitter, but the Braves have at least received a little more out of Upton, who had hit .192 with a .270 on-base percentage in the 197 games he played before moving to the lineup's top spot.
"I want to keep my guy there [in the leadoff spot]," Gonzalez said. "I think he's had some success there in that spot. That's what we want to do. We want to put guys in positions where they've been successful. 'Boni' is not an everyday guy and I don't want to jerk B.J. around."
Bonifacio has become quite accustomed to filling a backup role that introduces him to a variety of positions. The 29-year-old vet has made at least 81 starts at four different positions -- second base, center field, third base and shortstop. He has primarily played second base over the past couple of seasons, but his time there will likely be limited as long as Tommy La Stella continues being one of the Braves' most reliable offensive threats.
"I've been playing everywhere, so I'm prepared to be everywhere," Bonifacio said. "It's no big deal."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.