Despite the fact that they have seen their playing time dwindle to almost nothing as of late, two of the veteran bench players for the Atlanta Braves could be major factors later in the season.
Outfielder Reed Johnson, who has appeared in 40 games this season with just a few starts here and there and catcher Gerald Laird, who has played in 18 games (mostly starts) have a combined 20 years of experience. The two oldest players on the team are 36 and 33 years of age respectively, and their contributions may have gone unnoticed to the casual fan.
With the emergence of fellow outfielder Jordan Schafer, Johnson has found it difficult to find playing time. With Justin Upton, B.J. Upton and Jason Heyward serving as the club’s starting outfield and Schafer coming off the bench, there isn’t much room for a fifth outfielder to make much of a splash.
That’s why Johnson hasn’t really set the world on fire, carrying a batting average of .254, one home run and six RBIs into Sunday’s game against the San Francisco Giants.
Laird, meanwhile, can blame rookie sensation Evan Gattis for his lack of in-game action. When he was signed to a two-year contract prior to the season, it was expected that he would begin the season as Atlanta’s starting backstop and slide into the backup role when Brian McCann returned from shoulder surgery in May.
That obviously didn’t happen due to Gattis’ phenomenal play. While Laird has done well as starting pitcher Julio Teheran‘s primary catcher, he has really been cast into the background with the stellar play of the two guys ahead of him, even though his .271 average, one homer and seven RBIs are very good for a no. 2 catcher– well, no. 3 now.
As the season progresses and the Braves make a run at the postseason, I could see Johnson and Laird becoming more integral parts of the ballclub. Their experience and knack for stepping up in clutch situations could very well be needed down the stretch.
Even though they may seem like two of the most expendable players on the roster, they’ll make a real mark before all is said and done.