PITTSBURGH -- As he has seen his pinch-hitters prove to be significantly less productive than last year, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has shouldered some of the blame, saying that he has not has gotten his bench players the consistent playing time necessary to remain prepared for pinch-hit opportunities.
Some of this has had to do with the limited defensive talents possessed by Ryan Doumit, whose attempt to serve as the Braves' primary pinch-hitter has only highlighted the fact that his skill set is likely best served in the American League.
But while Doumit provides limited defensive versatility, Gonzalez has gained more flexibility over the past month with the additions of two talented utility men -- Emilio Bonifacio and Phil Gosselin, both of whom have found themselves in the starting lineup more often than the average backup since their arrival.
In fact, Gosselin has seemingly knocked Tommy La Stella out of his role as the club's everyday second baseman. Including Tuesday night's game against the Pirates, Gosselin has started three of the past four contests at second base.
"I'm looking to get Gosselin involved somehow, someway in a game, and the same thing with [Bonifacio]," Gonzalez said. "If there is a situation where you can double-switch and leave him in a game, you feel like he could do a decent job."
Bonifacio has started nine of the 16 games the Braves have played since he was acquired from the Cubs on July 31. Four of those starts have come in center field, and three others were made at shortstop while Andrelton Simmons was dealing with a left ankle sprain.
While some fans have clamored for Bonifacio to be used as the primary center fielder, Gonzalez has provided every indication that he plans to continue utilizing B.J. Upton in that role. After batting .185 with a .587 OPS last year, Upton entered Tuesday hitting .207 with a .606 OPS in 116 games this season.
"You keep running him out there, you see the good at-bats and the good attitude -- he's not defeated," Gonzalez said. "So you stay in his corner and keep plugging away."