Have the Braves found their new leadoff man?

The Braves have needed a leadoff man since Michael Bourn left - at least a 'true' leadoff man. Has B.J. Upton solved the problem?

In a May 14 column in the Telegraph in Macon, I had an idea for the Braves struggling lineup that caused some people to question my sanity:

Manager Fredi Gonzalez should put B.J. Upton in the leadoff spot – just to try something new. Upton has been better this season – only slightly better, but still better than last year. He's hit leadoff before with Tampa Bay. Is he a perfect candidate? Absolutely not, but something has to change.

Jason Heyward was not awful as the leadoff man, but the Braves are wasting his run-producing potential by not having him in the middle of the order. That as much as anything is why I wanted Heyward lower and for Upton to be given a shot to lead off.

Plus, Upton has done it before and he can run. And most important is the fact that he failed at hitting second and you don't want him anywhere else except maybe eighth in the lineup if his near-.200 average continues.

But after a horrible weekend in Washington, as Upton went 0-18, Gonzalez moved Upton into the leadoff spot in the order and moved Heyward down to fifth in the lineup.

So far, so good, as Upton has hit safely in all eight games he's hit leadoff. He's only got nine hits, so that's one multi-hit game, but it's better than he was doing before. Upton's average is .265 as the leadoff man with a .306 on base percentage.

Elsewhere in the order, Upton has hit .202 with a .272 OBP.

Does this mean Upton is fixed? Probably not, but it's a start. He needed some type of positive vibe with his offense, and perhaps this is it to get him on track.

Meanwhile, Heyward has struggled as the number five hitter. He's hitting only .190 lower in the order so far, with no home runs and 3 RBI. He has walked 12 times, giving him an OBP of 382 from elsewhere from leadoff.

The Braves are 7-1 since this switch was made. Is that directly related to the lineup change? Maybe not, but at the least Upton is contributing. That's something he did not go lower in the order.

Upton has lead off 193 games in his career. He seems to be more comfortable in that spot, and if his production continues to be more respectable, then chances are Gonzalez is going to leave him there for a while.

Listen to "The Bill Shanks Show" from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and e-mail him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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