During the first inning of Wednesday night’s game against the Reds, Kelly Johnson left the game with a strained oblique muscle. Outfielder Todd Cunningham was called up from Triple A Gwinnett and will meet the team in Miami for their game tonight against the Marlins. Cunningham batted .291 with a .362 on base percentage and no home runs with Gwinnett. Although Cunningham will fill in for Johnson, he won’t be able to provide as much power.
Johnson was batting in the cleanup spot behind Freddie Freeman. Johnson felt a twinge in his back during batting practice but thought he could continue playing. After two pitches he found out that wasn’t going to happen and had to leave the game. Johnny Gomes finished the at-bat for Johnson, then replaced him in left field for the rest of the game.
Losing Johnson is a blow for the Braves. He has started 23 of the Braves’ 34 games while playing three different positions and contributing significantly to the lineup. Johnson led the team in home runs (6) and RBIs (18) while batting .259.
Johnson was invited to spring training as a non-roster invitee and earned his spot on the opening day roster as a bench player. Lately his hot hitting has launched him into the starting lineup and he had started 16 out of the last 18 games. Unfortunately he is now sidelined for the next 15 days.
The good news is that the Braves have plenty of other options in left field. Johnny Gomes has started all games against lefties and a few against righties. Todd Cunningham can fill in at left field or play as a backup center fielder to Cameron Maybin. Although he’s off to a slow start in 2015, the fastest man on the team, Eric Young Jr., can also get some starts in left field.