Rookies La Stella, Simmons give boost to Braves
ATLANTA (AP) The Braves received a needed boost from two players recalled from the minors last week.
Now Tommy La Stella and Shae Simmons are set for their home debuts.
Atlanta opens a two-game series with Seattle on Tuesday night. The starting second baseman is expected to be La Stella, who had back-to-back two-hit games in the Braves' weekend sweep at Miami.
The Braves also have a new power arm in their bullpen. Simmons, fresh from Double-A Mississippi, recorded a key out on Saturday. The right-hander then earned his first save on Sunday when closer Craig Kimbrel needed a rest.
General manager Frank Wren said Simmons, 23, filled a void left with right-hander Jordan Walden on the 15-day disabled list with a hamstring injury.
Walden ''was exceptional in April,'' Wren told The Associated Press on Monday. ''He gives us that solid end of the game guy, to be able to bridge to Kimbrel, and we were missing that. We think Simmons can do some of that.''
Simmons left Miami with two game balls and valuable experience. He survived two hits and a walk to earn the save in Sunday's 4-2 win over the Marlins.
''Now that it's over with, I can kind of ease my mind,'' Simmons said. ''I got through my first couple of appearances OK. Hopefully I just continue to work and get better from here.''
Catcher Evan Gattis said Simmons wasn't rattled in his first two pressure situations.
''He showed good composure,'' Gattis said. ''He didn't seem to get too shaken up. I think it was good that he was in that high-pressure situation (Saturday). I think that helped.''
The clutch production from La Stella, 25, and Simmons was especially important after the Braves lost four straight to the Red Sox. The three-game sweep of the Marlins kept the Braves in first place in the NL East before an off day on Monday.
''Both of them were brought up at a time when we had a need and they have performed quite well in getting their first taste of the big leagues,'' Wren said.
The Braves tried Dan Uggla, Ramiro Pena and Tyler Pastornicky at second base before finally calling up La Stella, who was promoted from Triple-A Gwinnett. He had two hits in his debut on Wednesday at Boston and is hitting .400 through his first five games.
La Stella's promotion led to renewed speculation the Braves might try to trade Uggla, who is hitting only .176. Wren insists the La Stella move and Uggla's status are ''mutually exclusive.''
''They don't impact each other,'' Wren said. ''What we're looking for is a spark out of that position, wherever that comes from and however that comes about.
''In Danny's case, we would love for him to get something going, but at the same time we'll continue to play like we're playing.''
La Stella likely will remain the starter as long as he provides a steady influence on a lineup which otherwise has been too reliant on all-or-nothing big swings.
''We feel like he gives an added dimension offensively that we need and that's plate discipline and putting the ball in play,'' Wren said. ''He seems to fit well in the lineup.''
Wren said Pastornicky, who was optioned to Gwinnett, needs regular playing time following a season-ending knee injury in 2013.
''Tyler really has missed a lot of time,'' Wren said. ''He missed two months at the end of last season with the ACL and missed most of spring training. We just felt it was in his best interest to go down and play regularly.''
AP Sports Writer Steven Wine in Miami contributed to this report.