8/12/2014 7:15 P.M. ET
Fredi to try to put Russell in better situations
By Mark Bowman and Joe Morgan / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- Instead of continuing to hope James Russell will magically become the left-handed specialist that his team currently lacks, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he will likely begin using Russell in a way that best satisfies the strengths shown via the unique splits he's produced this season.
"Maybe I need to do a better job for him, maybe give him a full inning instead of bringing him in, in the middle of an inning," Gonzalez said. "We need to try to figure all of that out to make him perform at the level where he can help us."
Russell's past two appearances have consisted of him facing just one left-handed hitter. He walked Bryce Harper during Saturday night's decisive 11th inning against the Nationals and surrendered a single to Carl Crawford during Monday's three-run eighth inning against the Dodgers.
Since being acquired from the Cubs on July 31, Russell has faced 17 batters, 11 of which have been left-handed. Of those 11 lefties, five have recorded hits and another has drawn a walk. These struggles simply extend what Russell was doing with the Cubs.
Russell has allowed left-handed batters to hit .324 (23-for-71) with a .385 on-base percentage this season. Last year, lefties hit just .183 (21-for-115) with a .221 OBP against him. Adding to the oddity of the left-handed reliever's stats is the fact that he has limited right-handed hitters to a .113 (7-for-62) batting average and a .253 OBP this year.
"[Pitching coach Roger McDowell] is looking at it," Gonzalez said. "Maybe it's just one pitch, maybe it's just location against lefties. Maybe it's just one of those years."
If the Braves want to gain a true left-handed specialist, they might need to look at the possibility of recalling Chasen Shreve, who has worked four scoreless innings since being sent from Atlanta to Triple-A Gwinnett on Aug. 1. Another candidate is Luis Avilan, who has at least shown some recent signs of promise while pitching for Gwinnett.
Simmons again out, but available off bench
ATLANTA -- When Andrelton Simmons declared himself ready to return to action on Monday night, he assumed he would at least be in Tuesday night's lineup against the Dodgers. But because of some lingering soreness in his left ankle, the Braves' shortstop will have to wait until at least Wednesday to return to the starting lineup.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said Simmons' soreness was likely just a result of the stress he placed on his ankle during Monday's batting practice. Simmons has now missed six straight starts since spraining his left ankle during an Aug. 5 game in Seattle.
"He's a little sore," Gonzalez said. "He's going to do some more stuff today [during batting practice]. He's available during the course of the game. But our medical staff didn't want to start him. They wanted to give him another day."
Like on Monday, Simmons spent Tuesday's batting practice jogging, fielding grounders and taking swings in pain-free fashion. The Gold Glove shortstop was available to be used defensively or as a pinch-hitter during Tuesday's game.
"We'll put him through his paces today and hopefully [Wednesday] he'll be in there," Gonzalez said.
Braves' Big League Impact draft set for Friday
ATLANTA -- Now that training camp has started for NFL teams, Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman will be watching. After making the playoffs in his fantasy football league last season, Freeman knows who he wants under center in 2014.
"I'm a huge Drew Brees fan," Freeman said.
Freeman hopes last year's success translates into his own league that he will run as part of Big League Impact, a nonprofit organization with a mission to support essential needs causes such as providing food, shelter and clean water both domestically and abroad.
Freeman's league, Freddie's Free Hugs, will include John Smoltz, Craig Kimbrel, Chris Johnson, Gavin Floyd, Gerald Laird and potentially fans as participants. Interested fans will make a one-time donation ranging from $3,000 to $5,000 to join the league and take part in a draft with Braves players at Turner Field on Friday. For more information, log onto BigLeagueImpact.org
Cardinals ace and Georgia native Adam Wainwright founded Big League Impact with his brother, Terry, in 2013. The Atlanta League's proceeds will benefit the Atlanta Community Food Bank, the Salvation Army of Tustin Ranch, Calif., and the Atlanta Braves Foundation as well as Big League Impact.
Freeman is hoping not only for a strong turnout but for a certain former Super Bowl MVP to slip down the draft board a bit.
"I've got the sixth pick, so I'm going to have to go with Drew Brees if he's there," Freeman said. "I'm hearing that Chris Johnson might take him just to make me mad, so I don't know what's going to happen."
• Right-handed reliever Shae Simmons completed a 20-pitch bullpen session Tuesday afternoon in pain-free fashion. This marked the first time he threw off the mound since being placed on the disabled list on July 29 with a right shoulder strain.
• As expected, Tommy La Stella was back in the lineup for Tuesday's game. La Stella exited Monday night's game with right hamstring discomfort that was later deemed to be simply a cramp.
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.