Earlier this season, Atlanta Braves outfielder Jordan Schafer was undoubtedly one of the team’s top backup options, providing the Braves with quality at-bats off the bench and filling in at all three outfield spots.
Unfortunately, his great season hit a sour note when he fouled a ball off his right ankle in late June, causing a stress fracture that resulted in a lengthy stint on the disabled list.
Schafer returned to action on Aug. 11, but was a shell of his former self, compiling just three hits in his first 34 at-bats, with 12 strikeouts included. As a result, his batting average dipped from .312 to .264, and some fans likely started to question why Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez was playing him over rookie outfielders Joey Terdoslavich and Todd Cunningham.
This just in: Schafer is back.
With five hits in his last 12 at-bats, including two hits on Sunday and three on Wednesday, all out of the leadoff spot, Schafer is making the loss of starting right fielder and former leadoff man Jason Heyward a little easier to deal with — and causing those who questioned Gonzalez’ decision to stick with the 26-year-old seem less boneheaded by the day.
Here’s a prime example of what Schafer means to the Braves: on Wednesday, his two-run single in the bottom of the second inning gave the club a 2-0 lead over the Cleveland Indians. Then his fleet-footed ways helped him steal second base after reaching via a one-out infield single in the bottom of the ninth, a move that paid off when he scored on a two-out single by third baseman Chris Johnson to give the Braves a 3-2 walk-off win.
If Schafer keeps contributing like that, and he has for the majority of the season — sans DL stint and the first few weeks following said stint — Atlanta will be even better off when Heyward returns.
And if regular center fielder B.J. Upton doesn’t start hitting by then, the man with the largest free agent contract in franchise history may find himself regularly riding the pine.