Gosselin, La Stella learning together in Majors
CINCINNATI -- On April 27, 2010, Phil Gosselin hit a grand slam to help the University of Virginia beat Coastal Carolina University, 6-3. Little did he know that the second baseman he passed while rounding the bases, red-shirt sophomore Tommy La Stella, would be a teammate of his with the Braves four years later.
Though Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez has said he isn't platooning the two at second base, Gosselin and La Stella are both getting playing time at the position since being called up from Triple-A Gwinnett earlier this season. La Stella was brought up on May 28, making his Major League debut the same day. Gosselin was recalled on July 26 after playing in four games for Atlanta in 2013.
Both were in the starting lineup for Sunday's series finale against the Reds at Great American Ball Park because Gonzalez gave everyday shortstop Andrelton Simmons a day off. Gosselin started at short and La Stella started at second.
Both have performed well for the Braves: La Stella entered Sunday batting .270 with 13 doubles, 28 RBIs and 31 walks in 259 at-bats, while Gosselin was batting .286 in 42 at-bats, hitting his first Major League home run on Aug. 15 against the A's.
With both players in similar stages of their career, getting adjusted to life in the Majors and sharing the same position much of the time, La Stella and Gosselin seek advice from one another on a regular basis.
"Phil and I are great friends, first and foremost," La Stella said. "I've played with him for a few years now and he's a great player as well. Obviously we've shared some time in the Minor Leagues and now splitting time in the big leagues, and we bounce stuff off each other. I respect his opinion and he respects mine."
Though they played against each other in college, the two met for the first time while with the Braves' Double-A affiliate in Mississippi last year.
"We talk a lot about the pitchers we're going to face that day and what he's seen in the past since he's been here a little bit longer, that kind of thing," Gosselin said of his interaction with La Stella. "He's a really knowledgeable guy and I definitely bounce some things off him and he does the same with me. It's nice to have someone like that."
Though a scenario in which two young players are getting time at the same position can be competitive, with each trying to earn a lion's share of the playing time, Gosselin and La Stella understand they're contributing in a way that's best for the club.
"We kind of know it's flip flopping back and forth a little bit, but we've got to be ready to go every day and be ready to help the team any way we can," Gosselin said. "It's nice to know that you've got a good relationship in that situation."
Both players have proven valuable so far as the Braves seek a return to the postseason.
"It's awesome," La Stella said of having the chance to contribute in a pennant race right away. "We stepped into a situation on a team full of veteran guys, and it's good for us because we can kind of go out and do our thing; we're not expected to carry the workload and there are plenty of guys on this team that are capable of doing that. Hopefully we can make a playoff push and get in there."