With Monday’s acquisition of left-handed reliever Scott Downs, the Braves filled their primary need two days before the non-waiver trade deadline.
Braves general manager Frank Wren said the Braves will continue to talk with other clubs until the deadline at 4 p.m. Wednesday. But even if they do nothing more, they’re satisfied they accomplished their No. 1 goal.
“It’s been a busy day today,” Wren said Monday afternoon. “We’ve had a lot of conversations. I don’t know if anything will come to fruition, but we’ve had a lot of conversations on different fronts.”
The Braves are also in the market for a left-handed bat and backup infielder. But that’s a piece they could add with a waiver deal in August, when more players become available as teams fall out of contention. The Braves have added players like utility player Jeff Baker (2012), shortstop Jack Wilson (2011) and first baseman Derrek Lee (2010) in recent years.
“If we look to do some other things, a lot of those will be addressed once we get to August and the waiver period,” Wren said. “We need to get some guys healthy and get our team back together so we’ve got a little better feel of how the configuration works and who’s doing what and where we need to fill in. Our club is pretty solid.”
That included his thoughts on the rotation. With last week’s season-ending injury to Tim Hudson, the Braves broadened their search to include starting pitching, but the market there was even thinner than for relief help.
The Braves showed initial interest in Jake Peavy, but that cooled with the White Sox asking price, which was reportedly major-league ready pitching. The Braves prospect who best fits that bill is left-hander Alex Wood and the Braves have no plans to part with him.
Batting chase: It only took about four months and the departure of Juan Francisco for Chris Johnson to get enough at-bats to qualify for the league batting leaders. But now the rest of baseball knows exactly the kind of hitter the Braves have had on their hands this season.
Johnson entered Monday batting .338, tops in the National League. He had joined Yadier Molina of the Cardinals in the top spot Saturday night at .332, then out-hit Molina Sunday night, going 3-for-4 to Molina’s 2-for-4 to move into sole possession of the league lead.
Not that he was focusing much on Molina during the weekend sweep of the NL Central’s first-place Cardinals.
“I’m trying not to look at that right now,” Johnson said. “We’ve got two months of baseball left. I start worrying about getting more hits than him, it’s just going to go downhill.”
Johnson has gotten the attention of the last Brave to win a batting title though. Chipper Jones, who won the batting title in 2008 by hitting .364 at age 36, took notice when Johnson moved into the NL lead and congratulated Johnson on Twitter.
“Go get you a batting title! Proud of you,” Jones tweeted.
Johnson was the so-called “throw in” in the offseason trade for Justin Upton from Arizona. The Braves platooned him with Francisco coming out of spring training. But not only did Johnson win the job outright, he made the best use of all the at-bats he got against left-handed pitching.
The right-handed hitting Johnson came to Atlanta batting nearly 30 points higher for his career against right-handers than left. (.283 vs. .255).
“I tried to work on that, getting better at an approach against lefties,” said Johnson, who was hitting .370 vs. lefties and .326 vs. righties entering Monday. “In my career, that’s what usually brought (my average) down. I wasn’t really comfortable facing lefties, but now I enjoy it.”
Johnson, a career .288 hitter, has topped .300 once in his first three full major league seasons when he hit .308 in 94 games for the Astros in 2010.
“He gives you a good at-bat every single time out,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “He’s got a really good approach at the plate. He puts the ball in play. He keeps it simple. The bat stays in the strike zone a long time.”
Injury updatesThe Braves designated right-hander Kameron Loe for assignment to make room on the roster for Downs. They also placed Paul Maholm (wrist) on the DL to open a roster spot for Monday’s starter Brandon Beachy.: Gonzalez had planned to start Reed Johnson in left field Monday against Rockies’ left-hander Jorge De La Rosa, but he had to scrap that plan when Johnson’s Achilles heel flared up as he ran out a ground ball Sunday night. “It’s probably going to be day-to-day with him,” said Gonzalez, who started Joey Terdoslavich in left field instead.
Gonzalez said both B.J. Upton and Jordan Schafer were progressing well as they ramped up their running and continued to take batting practice. He thinks both could be ready to head out on a minor league rehabilitation assignment by the middle of the week.