SAN FRANCISCO -- With the Giants starting left-hander Madison Bumgarner on Wednesday, the Braves rested Jason Heyward and put Tyler Pastornicky at the top of their lineup. But manager Fredi Gonzalez said Heyward will continue filling the leadoff role in future matchups against southpaw starters.
"I'm starting to see Jason come a little bit to life," Gonzalez said.
Heyward certainly hasn't matched the expectations he created when he moved into the leadoff role in late July and flourished for three weeks before a Jon Niese pitch fractured his jaw. The Braves right fielder has hit .205 with a .304 on-base percentage through his first 37 games this season.
But Heyward has hit .256 with a .333 on-base percentage his past 21 games. During Tuesday night's win over the Giants, he made the most of the one hit he recorded in five at-bats. After hitting a single to begin the sixth, he alertly tagged and advanced to second base when Angel Pagan caught Justin Upton's fly ball in deep right-center field.
"Those things go unnoticed for the people who aren't paying attention," Gonzalez said.
Heyward caught everyone's attention a few moments later when he displayed his athleticism by going around and under Giants catcher Buster Posey's tag to avoid an out that seemed inevitable. Heyward was more than 10 feet away from the plate when Posey received Hunter Pence's throw.
"I don't know," Heyward said when asked how he avoided the tag. "That's some athleticism there. I wasn't going to quit on the play. I saw the ball going home and he walked toward me and I didn't think he was going to walk toward me. I was going to slide regardless. I just made that kind of move."
B. Upton ejected for arguing strike call
SAN FRANCISCO -- Braves center fielder B.J. Upton's frustration came to a boil when he was ejected for emphatically objecting to a called third strike in the sixth inning of Wednesday afternoon's 10-4 loss to the Giants at AT&T Park.
"It's not what I want to do," Upton said. "It's not really a good example for kids and it makes me look like a [jerk]. But at the same time, you come here and you grind every day, you work and you're trying to stay in [at-bats] and help your team win a ballgame. Things like that can boil over real quick."
Frustrated by a number of strike calls that went against him during the series, Upton blew off some steam when plate umpire Lance Barrett rung him up on a Juan Gutierrez curveball. The Braves outfielder immediately turned toward Barrett and offered some choice words that drew an ejection before he exited the batter's box.
"I think that was an accumulation of three days," Upton said. "It's not really what I want to do. It was just kind of a reaction."
After Upton continued to air out Barrett behind the plate, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez came on the field to bring Upton back to the dugout. Gonzalez said he understood why his outfielder became frustrated by what occurred during the series.
When Upton arrived at the ballpark Wednesday, he was still frustrated about Ed Hickox's called third strike on an outside pitch that certainly missed the plate during the fourth inning of Tuesday night's game.
"I don't know how much of it is his fault," Gonzalez said. "I come back here and look at some of those pitches and they're not close."
Though he regularly disputes called strikes, Upton has said he has spent the past few years attempting to rid himself of a label he believes he got when he argued with umpires shortly after the Rays promoted him to the Major League level when he was just 19 years old in 2004.
"That's kind of been a goal of mine to not do that anymore," Upton said. "That's something I've really been working on the last couple of years and I really haven't said anything this year. This series, it just kind of got to the point where it just kind of happened."
Braves reconsider, sticking with five-man rotation
SAN FRANCISCO -- Less than 24 hours after revealing that he planned to use a six-man rotation through next week, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez scrapped that plan and said Alex Wood will remain in the bullpen for the time being.
Gonzalez revealed his plan to stick with a traditional five-man rotation before Wednesday afternoon's series finale against the Giants. The Braves skipper made the decision after he and pitching coach Roger McDowell further evaluated how to best harness Wood's workload and keep the other starting pitchers on a rather normal schedule.
The Braves had planned to have Wood skip one turn and then return to the rotation to start Saturday's game against the Cardinals. But they now have opted to give that start to Aaron Harang, one of the veteran starters who would have seen their normal between-starts ritual altered by the six-man rotation.
Though he did not commit to when Wood might make his next start, Gonzalez said the plan remains for the 23-year-old southpaw to return to the rotation in the near future. The Braves are aiming to limit Wood to somewhere between 170 and 180 innings during his second professional season.
"Even during [Tuesday's] pregame talk, I wasn't too keen on it," Gonzalez said of the six-man rotation. "Then the more you talk through it and the more you talk to Roger and about what's best for everybody ... you start looking at [Thursday's off-day] and there's some guys that would be going [with two extra days of rest]. As you move forward, it just didn't make sense."
Had the Braves stuck with their plan to use a six-man rotation, Harang, Gavin Floyd, Mike Minor and Julio Teheran would have all made their next starts with two extra days of rest. Now they all will take just one extra day of rest into their next outings. Ervin Santana will start Friday's game against the Cardinals and then return to start the May 21 game against the Brewers on normal rest.
Gonzalez said Tuesday that he saw some benefit to providing extra rest to Floyd as he goes through the early stages of his return from Tommy John surgery.
But at the same time, Gonzalez recognized that it is not always wise to have his pitchers make consecutive starts seven days apart. Harang's only previous start with two extra days of rest this year occurred April 30, when he allowed the Marlins nine earned runs in 4 2/3 innings. The 36-year-old hurler has produced a 1.44 ERA in his other six starts.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.