Prado may shift to third in Chipper's absence

Prado may shift to third in Chipper's absence

Prado may shift to third in Chipper's absence
ATLANTA -- With Braves third baseman Chipper Jones on the disabled list with a severely bruised left calf, manager Fredi Gonzalez said Martin Prado may have to move from left field to third base until Jones returns. Gonzalez made it clear, however, that Prado will play one position, not alternate between left field and third base.

"I'm not going to go back and forth," Gonzalez said. "I'm not going to do that to him."

Last year, Prado often alternated between starting in left field and at third base. Gonzalez said he thinks not having a defined position hurt Prado's production at the plate.

"Martin is a guy that likes routines," Gonzalez said. "He's a routine-oriented guy. And I'm not saying that's the whole thing there, but I'm thinking that's [part of it]."

Prado started the All-Star Game as the National League's second baseman in 2010. He hit .307 with 15 home runs that season. Prado's offensive production dipped last season as he moved to left field and also played third base occasionally. He also spent six weeks on the disabled list with a staph infection.

Prado has primarily served as the Braves' left fielder this year, and has returned to being one of their best hitters. He leads the team in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

If the Braves opted to put Prado at third base, left field would likely become a platoon between Eric Hinske and Matt Diaz.

Juan Francisco is the Braves' other option at third base until Jones returns. Since Jones was hurt last Friday, Francisco has played all but one game at third base. He is 4-for-23 (.174) with two home runs in that stretch.

Prado is considered to be a better defender than Francisco, who has made four errors in 22 games this season. According to John Dewan's defensive-runs saved statistic, Prado has saved 20 runs in his career at third base. Francisco, meanwhile, has cost his team two runs in one-third as many innings.

Still, Gonzalez said it may be Francisco's offense that ultimately sways his choice.

"Francisco can help make that decision," Gonzalez said. "Usually the bat does a lot of talking."