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Schafer becomes fourth hitter to bat leadoff for Braves

DETROIT -- As the past few weeks have elapsed, the Braves have been constantly reminded that they do not have a legitimate leadoff hitter on their roster. Andrelton Simmons, who began the season in that role, has shown some recent signs of encouragement.

But when his team concluded what has been a disappointing 10-game road trip with Sunday night's game against the Tigers, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez penciled Jordan Schafer's name at the top of his lineup. Just 24 games into the season, Schafer became the fourth leadoff hitter the Braves have utilized.

"We don't have that perfect candidate, and there is very little out there at the Major League level that is the perfect candidate to be the leadoff guy," Gonzalez said.

With the Nationals starting three right-handed pitchers during this week's series, Schafer could get a few more starts at the top of the lineup. But Gonzalez said he has not given up on the idea of continuing to try Simmons in the leadoff role.

Braves leadoff hitters entered Sunday ranked 28th in the Majors with a .211 batting average and 27th with a .276 on-base percentage. The second spot in their lineup ranked last in the Majors with a .126 batting average and 26th with a .252 OBP.

As a result, the Braves have not been able to take full advantage of the power supplied by Justin Upton, who hit 11 of his Major League-leading 12 home runs without any runners on base.

Upton was the only Braves player to play in each of the first 23 games and he batted third in each game. But he entered Sunday with just 12 at-bats with runners in scoring position. Four of his teammates had recorded a higher total.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for
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