Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez will miss Friday and Saturday’s games in San Francisco so he can attend his daughter Gigi’s graduation from Georgia Southern.
Bench coach Carlos Tosca will manage in Gonzalez’s absence. Tosca has 382 games of managing experience at the major league level. He was 191-191 as Toronto’s manager from 2002-04.
“She only graduates college once,” Gonzalez said. “I always tell my coaching staff when it comes to weddings, funerals, and stuff like that — that’s important.”
Gonzalez also missed one game in 2009 as Marlins manager to attend Gigi’s graduation from Lassiter High.
Ideally he would only miss one game on this occasion, too. But because the Braves are on the West Coast, and the graduation is 9 a.m. Saturday, so he couldn’t get back in time for the game Saturday. He’ll manage Thursday’s series opener against the Giants, then fly to Savannah on Friday morning.
He’ll be back in San Francisco by Saturday evening, but the Braves and Giants play a day game that day, a 1:05 p.m. local start, 4:05 p.m. EDT.
“I hate it because you’ve got to miss two games just because of where the schedule is,” Gonzalez said. “There was no way I could make it back. I tried everything other than renting a private jet.”
Heyward rehab: Jason Heyward gave his legs one final test with some running Wednesday during batting practice and cleared his final hurdle before heading out on a minor league rehabilitation assignment.
Heyward was scheduled to fly back to Atlanta after Wednesday’s game and join Triple-A Gwinnett, where he will play Thursday against Pawtucket at Coolray Field in a 10:35 a.m. game. Heyward will travel with Gwinnett to Scranton, Pa., for a weekend series against the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate and then will be re-evaluated after the weekend.
Depending on how Heyward fares, he could make his return from an April 22 emergency appendectomy some time during the Braves’ three-game series in Arizona on Monday-Wednesday or when they return home May 17-19 vs. the Dodgers.
Uggla heating up: Three weeks ago, Dan Uggla and hitting coach Greg Walker started re-working his swing, and Uggla has seen the fruits in the past six games. He homered twice Wednesday, the second of which made him 9-for-24 (.375) over the past six games, with two home runs, two triples and four RBIs.
“It’s still a work in progress, but definitely going in the right direction,” Uggla said. “Just feeling more and more comfortable each time up.”
Walker said they patterned the changes off video of Uggla’s 2006 season with the Marlins, when he hit .282 with 26 doubles, seven triples, 27 home runs and 90 RBIs.
He stands more upright and brings his hands down lower in front of his back shoulder as he starts his swing.
“He’s not cutting himself off with his front side,” Walker said. “He’s seeing the ball better. He’s swinging from a better hand slot. It’s fairly subtle, but there’s a lot of difference. And it’s natural to him.”
Uggla has been hitting to the opposite field, including both of his triples, another sign of his progress.
“It’s taken him a couple weeks to get the feel for it during game speed, but we’ve seen him trending up for a while now,” Walker said. “The ball coming off his bat in batting practice is better trajectory, especially to center and to right. … And now he’s hitting home runs in batting practice to right field pretty regularly. He’s starting to hit breaking balls, something he’d gotten away from.”
Venters’ next step: Reliever Jonny Venters is set to throw off the mound Thursday in San Francisco for the first time since receiving a platelet-rich plasma injection April 3 and resting his elbow for four weeks.
Venters has been began playing catch for a week building up his arm strength and has been pleased with the way his elbow has felt. The real test comes as he begins to throw harder off the mound. He is trying to avoid surgery.
Brandon Beachy has one more batting practice session to throw either Thursday or Friday in San Francisco, and then he’ll throw one final bullpen session. If all goes well he’ll likely head out on a minor league rehabilitation assignment shortly after the Braves return from this three-city trip Wednesday.
Lineup watch: Gonzalez gave Justin Upton his first day out of the lineup all year, as well as resting his brother B.J. Upton and not starting Brian McCann after he caught his first two games back from shoulder surgery. He also gave Juan Francisco a chance to play back-to-back games in the hitter-friendly park against his old Reds teammates.
“Nobody plays 162 anymore,” Gonzalez said. “You’ve got to play your bench, especially in the National League.”