Struggling McLouth sent down to Triple-A
Outfielder looks to rebuild confidence, correct swing in Minors
WASHINGTON -- Mired in a 6-for-63 slump that has seen his batting average and confidence plummet, center fielder Nate McLouth was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett by the Braves on Tuesday.
McLouth was informed of the move around 4 p.m. ET in a meeting with manager Bobby Cox and general manager Frank Wren before the opener of a three-game series against the Washington Nationals.
"It's all about performance, and there's little room for error and little room to go out and work on things when everything's performance-based," said McLouth. "That's just the way it is. I've got to get myself right, get my swing right, my timing and things like that. Triple-A's the best place to do that, and I'm going to go down there and use it to get myself right."
McLouth was hitting .168 with three homers and 14 RBIs in 62 games at the time of the demotion and showed few signs from pulling out of a season-long funk. Since being acquired from Pittsburgh for three players on June 3, 2009, McLouth is hitting .225 in 146 games. It's a drastic move for a player with 627 Major League games on his resume, who hit .276 with a league-leading 46 doubles, 26 home runs, 94 RBIs and 23 stolen bases as recently as '08 in Pittsburgh.
He missed 33 games with a head contusion after colliding with teammate Jason Heyward while tracking a fly ball on June 9 at Arizona. While on the disabled list, McLouth hit .258 during a seven-game rehabilitation assignment at Gwinnett, but McLouth has not been able to get back on track since being activated on July 21 and his average has nosedived to its lowest point since May 12.
"We hoped during the DL stint that it would be long enough for him to get consistent at-bats and get in a groove, and at the time, it did appear he was making good progress, but it kind of feels like he reverted back when he got back up here," Wren said. "We talked about it internally and thought it was a good idea to get him back [to Triple-A] to get relaxed at-bats and be able to start getting back into his old groove."
McLouth understood the decision and spent the time after learning of the move to take some indoor batting practice, study video and firm up his travel arrangements. He hopes to be in uniform for Gwinnett by Wednesday or Thursday.
"It's about being able to contribute, and I'm clearly not doing that right now," McLouth said. "It's strictly mechanical and timing -- there's something wrong with my swing that I need to figure out and I'm going to go do that as soon as possible. It's something I need to do for an extended period of time. My confidence, anybody's confidence, takes a hit when you've struggled for as long as I have. I'm going to go rebuild that as well."
McLouth's goal is to get back to Atlanta in time to help the Braves' postseason push.
"I'm disappointed, obviously, but clearly something hasn't been right all year," he said. "The way they handled it was as professional as could be, and that's the way I'm going to handle it. I'm going to go down there and get my swing right, get it where it's got to be and get back as soon as possible and help this team win in the playoffs."
To replace McLouth on the 25-man roster, the Braves activated outfielder Brent Clevlen from the 15-day disabled list. Clevlen was placed on the DL May 24 with a sprained right big toe and has missed 54 games. Wren said Clevlen was en route to Washington, D.C., and was expected to land shortly after 8 p.m., then be transported to Nationals Park. Clevlen hit .250 (1-for-4) in three games with Atlanta earlier this season.
With McLouth gone, Melky Cabrera will see the bulk of the time in center field, Cox said, adding that there is no shortage of possible options for the position. Omar Infante, Clevlen and Heyward could also play center field. The Braves also could summon Gregor Blanco, who was sent to Triple-A when McLouth was activated from the disabled list, but Blanco must stay with Gwinnett for 10 days, so he could only be in the mix when eligible on Saturday.
Pete Kerzel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.