Bonifacio's versatility gives Braves lineup options

Bonifacio's versatility gives Braves lineup options

SEATTLE -- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez isn't ready to announce how he wants to use recently acquired utility man Emilio Bonifacio. Will Bonifacio play outfield or infield? Will he hit atop the lineup or at the bottom?

Blame social media?

"I don't know. We'll see. We'll see," Gonzalez said Tuesday, when asked if Bonifacio could see time in center field. "I don't want to get myself cornered or pigeonholed because you guys will be out there Tweetering or Tindering or whatever that thing is."

Tuesday was Bonifacio's fourth game with Atlanta since last week's non-waiver Trade Deadline, when the Cubs sent him, left-handed reliever James Russell and cash considerations to the Braves in exchange for Minor League catcher Victor Caratini.

Bonifacio on Tuesday made his first start in Atlanta's leadoff spot while replacing B.J. Upton in center field. He was 1-for-4 with a stolen base and made a couple highlight-reel-worthy catches on defense.

Gonzalez hinted that Bonifacio's versatility -- he's a switch-hitter who can play infield and outfield -- makes him a candidate to play any spot on any given day, depending on pitching matchups.

"You can play him in center, all the outfield positions, you can play him in three out of the four positions in the infield. He's a nice piece to have," Gonzalez said. "You can plug him into a lot of different places ... other than hitting third or fourth probably. You can put him anywhere you want depending on what you want to do."

In eight big league seasons, Bonifacio entered Tuesday with a .322 career on-base percentage. He primarily batted leadoff this season with the Cubs, posting a .281/.319/.378 slash line in 63 games atop Chicago's lineup.

Upton, meanwhile, has just a .227 batting average in 34 games since assuming full-time leadoff duties on June 24. He also leads the Majors with a 139 strikeouts.

"I just see a guy going through a funk -- like everybody does. Everybody goes through a little funk. Even the guys who are hitting," Gonzalez said of Upton. "Even Mike Trout, believe it or not. He goes 0-for-10 every once in a while. Maybe not 0-for-10. Maybe 0-for-4."

Will Bonifacio see more time in a leadoff role?

"I've gotten as far as tomorrow," Gonzalez said. "We'll see what that brings."

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