PHILADELPHIA -- When Freddie Freeman was rolling during the early portion of the season, Chipper Jones anointed him as the player who would spend the next several years as the Braves' No. 3 hitter. But as long as the much more athletic Jason Heyward continues to produce like he has over the past two months, he will likely remain in the third spot of the lineup.
"He's taken to that spot," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "During our last homestand, I'll bet he scored five or six times on doubles from first base. Nobody else on our team other than [Michael Bourn] would have scored."
Gonzalez's memory is pretty good. Heyward entered Tuesday having scored from first base on something other than a home run five times in the previous five games.
Heyward showed off his graceful speed and hustle when he scored from first base on Brian McCann's seventh-inning single in Monday night's 6-1 win over the Phillies. The big outfielder slowed only momentarily as he neared second base and then turned on the jets after Nate Schierholtz allowed the ball to get past him in right field.
"He's an exciting player, and everybody is getting to see it," Freeman said.
Gonzalez admits that he has kept an open mind when constructing his lineup over the past couple of weeks. In other words, he has allowed himself to debate whether he would be better off filling the third spot with Freeman, who has batted .325 with a .418 on-base percentage and a .510 slugging percentage in his past 42 games.
But while Freeman might be viewed as a player who could clog the bases because of his lack of speed, Heyward provides the Braves a player who can put himself in scoring position with a stolen base or simply take the extra base whenever given the opportunity.
Plus, Heyward has strengthened his position by batting .304 with 12 home runs, a .366 on-base percentage and a .537 slugging percentage in the 56 games he has played since the start of June.
"We can sit here and argue about [batting Heyward or Freeman third] all day long," Gonzalez said. "But the thing we can't argue about are all of the runs he has scored from first or second base. That doesn't come up on the stat sheet."