Caray: Thoughts on La Stella, Laird’s importance, state of NL East

With Evan Gattis missing six of the last eight games recently -- including twice being a late scratch -- backup Gerald Laird responded by hitting .318 in that span.

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FOXSportsSouth.com checks in with play-by-play announcer Chip Caray to discuss the latest surrounding the Braves.

FOXSPORTSOUTH.COM: Fans had been clamoring for the debut of Tommy La Stella and he looks as advertised, with the plate discipline he displayed in the minors. Can he be that consistent bat the team has needed at second base?

CHIP CARAY: I think we should put him in the Hall of Fame. Go ahead and retire his number and go ahead and have the ceremony at the ballpark.

Look, it’s been one game. I think it’s obvious when you look at the numbers of the Braves second basemen this year, the offensive numbers are among the worst cumulative numbers among second basemen in baseball.

That’s not to say this is one guy’s problem or one guy’s fault. It’s not. It’s a collective and cumulative issue. But it’s there and if Tommy La Stella is the guy that come in and put the ball in play and make all the routine plays at second base, pick the hits and set the table for the top of the rest of the order, he or anyone else who have that skill set are going to be a very, very welcome commodity.

Quite frankly, we haven’t seen that very much from that part of the batting order, whether it’s a second baseman, an outfielder or a reserve guy, the offense is in a fluttering mode. There’s just very little consistency on a game-to-game, much less inning-to-inning basis and I think that’s what’s frustrating a lot of people.

Will Tommy La Stella stabilize the batting order? If he swings the bat like he did Wednesday night, I think he’s really going to help. He’s not going to hit. 500 the rest of the year, though, so it’s important that the other guys get their act together and get going collectively and, as manager Fredi Gonzalez says, ‘Keep the line moving.’

FSS.COM: Amid Evan Gattis’ missed time, Gerald Laird hit .318. But what’s been most impressive is that Laird twice stepped in due to Gattis being a late scratch. He certainly presents the Braves with a luxury a lot of teams don’t have in that backup role.

CC: He’s a professional. Professional players are prepared to play every single day of the major league schedule.

That’s the role of a backup. You don’t know if a guy’s going to hurt himself in batting practice or come in and be sore from the night before or his wife goes into labor or any kind of thing that happens in life, much less baseball.

Those guys have to be ready and Gerald is. He handles the staff very well, he knows how to set hitters up, he calls and outstanding game and from an offensive standpoint, he’s got a bunch of big hits too.

I love watching him catch. I think he needs to have a limited endorsement because sooner or later he’s going to be wearing a T-shirt that says "Bench me or Trade Me," because he’s really been busy back there and he’s done a wonderful job, for sure.

FSS.COM: Despite losing four of five, the Braves remain atop the National League East. Is that more of an indictment to the rest of the division or should it been seen as a positive that there’s the potential to take a commanding lead with a more consistent run?

CC: I think the truth is right there in the middle of those two polar opposite points.

Look, let’s start with the positive: the Braves haven’t played well from an offensive standpoint, they’ve pitched brilliantly and for the most part they’ve caught the baseball and they’re in first place.

When they have any kind of offensive consistency, this is a team that with a pitching staff that can rattle off eight, nine, 10 out of 15 games in the win column.

The down side of that, is this is the team. I don’t see any major moves; we’ve already seen Tommy La Stella come up from the minor leagues. There may not be much more that the Braves can do from an addition standpoint at this time at least that’s the perception.

With Washington critically injured and all those players knocked out and Miami losing Jose Fernandez, their top of the rotation ace, they’re only a half game back and the Nationals are only three back and neither of those teams have had their whole teams together for much of the season.

The truth is somewhere in between. Ultimately the games when the Braves play those guys head-to-head are going to be hugely important, including the series that starts Friday down in Miami. They swing the bats extremely well at home and the Braves got walloped down at Marlins Park the first time. That can’t happen, and if it does, there’s a pretty good chance the Braves won’t go home in first place.