Braves move rookie La Stella to leadoff spot

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ATLANTA (AP) - Rookie Tommy La Stella is batting leadoff for the first time in a new-look Braves’ lineup.

Jason Heyward, who has hit leadoff in all but two games this season, is hitting fifth in Wednesday’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez said he may give La Stella, who is hitting .364, a long look in the leadoff spot.

The change was made as the Braves have lost two straight and five of seven to fall out of first place in the NL East. The Braves, who have struggled offensively most of the season, scored a combined three runs in their past two losses.

Gonzalez said he wants La Stella, the second baseman who was called up from the minors on May 28, “to do his thing.”

“He doesn’t have to change his approach,” Gonzalez said.

Justin Upton, who left Tuesday night’s game with dizziness, is not starting but is available. Centerfielder B.J. Upton and shortstop Andrelton Simmons also are out of the lineup for the day.

Gonzalez said he had circled Wednesday’s noon start as a good opportunity to give starters a rest in the middle of a long stretch of games.

“It usually turns out pretty good,” Gonzalez said.

Ramiro Pena is starting at shortstop and hitting second. Left fielder Ryan Doumit and centerfielder Jordan Schafer are hitting seventh and eighth, respectively.

Heyward is hitting .254 with eight homers, 27 RBIs and nine stolen bases. Heyward provides speed at the top of the lineup and has lifted his batting average following a slow start in April. He also provides another power bat with Evan Gattis and Freddie Freeman in the middle of the lineup.

“I think the world of Jason Heyward,” Gonzalez said. “I think he can hit anywhere in the lineup and be productive. That’s why he’s hitting fifth.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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