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Simmons' brush with offense causes stir

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ATLANTA -- As relief pitcher Shae Simmons' spot in the order approached during the bottom of the fifth on Tuesday night, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez did not call a pinch-hitter. Simmons had escaped a jam in top of the inning, and Gonzalez wanted to keep him on the mound.

So with Tommy La Stella at the plate and Christian Bethancourt on deck, the skipper told the rookie right-hander to prepare for his first Major League plate appearance.

"The only time I saw him flustered yesterday was when I told him to grab a bat," Gonzalez said while laughing. "He goes, 'What do you mean?' I said, 'Grab a bat and a helmet. If Bethancourt hits a three-run homer, you're going to hit.'"

Simmons added: "It's been a while since I've had an actual at-bat. I had one in Double-A and I swung after it hit the glove."

Simmons was confused as one of Gerald Laird's bats was placed in his hands. Not only did he initially refuse a thumb guard ("It wasn't comfortable," he said.), but when he was asked for his helmet size, Simmons responded, "Large."

Once the initial shock wore off, however, Simmons had a sense of humor about the situation.

"I asked for the biggest bat they had, but they didn't think it was too funny," Simmons said. "I used one of Laird's, I think. He just told me to grab one. ... He made sure I didn't grab a good one, though."

La Stella ended up striking out to end the inning, and Simmons didn't need to bat before he went out and pitched a perfect sixth. When the ninth spot in the lineup came up the next inning, Gonzalez spared Simmons a trip to the plate and called on Dan Uggla to pinch-hit.

"It kind of helped get my mind off the game and everything," Simmons said. "I just worried about hitting instead of pitching, so it gave my mind a little breather."

Joe Morgan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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