ATLANTA -- Manager Fredi Gonzalez has become steadily more concerned about the lack of production he has received over the past couple weeks from B.J. Upton, Dan Uggla and Jason Heyward.
So when he awoke on Thursday and began devising his lineup for that night's game against Toronto knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, he decided he would sit all three. This gave him a chance to get Evan Gattis, Jordan Schafer and Ramiro Pena in the lineup.
The decision paid immediate dividends, with Schafer scoring on a RBI single in the first inning, and Pena plating Gattis with a base hit in the second.
"Sometimes it just helps to sit back, relax and watch the game," Gonzalez said. "Whether it's one game or whatever, it usually works. I suspect those guys are upset, and that is good to see also. You don't want to have a guy who is happy about not playing.
"In the long run, those guys that aren't playing today, we'll win a championship with those guys."
Although he has homered five times in his past 61 at-bats, Uggla has batted just .164 in that span. He has just one hit, a home run, in 26 career at-bats against Dickey.
Heyward has shown some promise, as he has consistently hit the ball the opposite way since missing nearly a month after undergoing an appendectomy. He has hit .195 with a respectable .395 on-base percentage in the 11 games he has played since returning.
Upton's struggles are the most alarming, as he is just two months into a five-year, $75.25 million contract. Thursday marked the fourth time in a span of five games he was left out of the lineup.
Upton has hit .146 with four home runs and a .478 OPS through his first 45 games with Atlanta. His batting average and OPS rank as the lowest produced by any qualified Major Leaguer this season.
"I think at the end of the year, B.J. will be our center fielder," Gonzalez said, "but we've got to get him going and get him straightened out. We will. I have not put a timetable on [how many games he will miss]. I think our No. 1 goal is to get him straightened out."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. Eric Single is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less