ST. LOUIS -- Freddie Freeman as baseball's next iron man? While Cal Ripken Jr. certainly has no reason to lose sleep over his record, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez didn't dismiss Freeman's ability -- and more important his desire -- to be in the lineup every day.
"It's a position that isn't really taxing," Gonzalez said of his first baseman before Saturday's game. "It's not like you're playing center field and going gap to gap or catching every day. It's a position that you can get away with, and we've had some off-days here and there. I can see him playing 162. He likes to play and that's good trait, a guy who likes to play every day."
Freeman was in the lineup on Sunday, and he has now started in all 42 games this season. He went 3-for-3 with a home run and three RBIs, giving him a .314 average to go along with eight home runs and 27 RBIs this season.
Freeman is used to a heavy workload. He played in 147 games the previous two seasons and logged 157 games in 2011.
And his glove at first is just as important as his bat for Atlanta's defense.
"We always talk about how good our defense is in the infield with [Andrelton] Simmons, but [Freeman] makes a big impact over there at first base," Gonzalez said. "The first base position gets overlooked a lot. They think they are these big guys who have hairy knuckles and are hitting the ball out of the ballpark, but if you look the teams who are leading in defense, they usually have a pretty good first baseman over there that can really help out."
Gonzalez discusses baseball's downturn in offense
ST. LOUIS -- While the Braves' offensive struggles have been well chronicled, manager Fredi Gonzalez sees some league-wide trends that are hard to ignore.
The Braves have scored just 129 runs in their first 41 games, which ranks them last in the National League. But Atlanta isn't the only team suffering a power outage. On Friday, there were six shutouts in Major League Baseball and there were four more shutouts on Saturday, and teams scored two runs or fewer in seven other games.
"Offense is down, in the last three or four years it has continually gone down," Gonzalez said. "And then you look at the scoring. We scored one yesterday, somebody got shut out one-nothing, two or three or four teams got one or two runs. We may have to revisit industry-wise how we go about the game."
Atlanta got a first-hand look at just where the game might be headed as the Cardinals played small ball en route to a 4-1 win over the Braves. The Cardinals had four bunt base hits in the game, the first time a team had that many in one game since 2003.
St. Louis, a team known for its power over the past decade, has just 23 home runs at the season's quarter mark.
Gonzalez wonders if teams need to start re-evaluating how they scout, draft and develop players, perhaps de-emphasizing the importance of raw power and focusing more on defense, speed and other quantitative analysis.
"I think obviously the group that's here now, it's hard to change as an industry. ... We might try to revisit how we draft players, how we bring them up through the Minor Leagues and that kind of stuff," Gonzalez said.
Uggla starts at second base as Braves shuffle lineup
ST. LOUIS -- The Braves lineup Sunday featured several changes, the most notable being Dan Uggla starting at second.
It was Uggla's first start since May 6. Uggla has struggled, entering Sunday with a .183 average this season and has just two plate appearances since Tyler Pastornicky got the starting nod earlier this month.
"We'll give him four at-bats and I hope he can go 4-for-4 and I hope we can score 12 runs," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said before the game. "Just give him some at-bats."
Pastornicky tweaked his calf reaching for a ball thrown to second on a steal attempt during Saturday's game. At first, there was concern about a re-aggravation of the knee injury that derailed Pastornicky's 2013 campaign, but the soreness is in the calf.
"I know the difference from last year, what it feels like and it definitely wasn't that," Pastornicky said. "I just kind of came down on it and it kind of wouldn't loosen up after that so we just give it a day."
Pastornicky took part in all of the team drills before Sunday's game and expects to be back in the lineup Monday.
Uggla batted sixth. Gerald Laird also gave Evan Gattis a breather at catcher and Jordan Schafer got the start in center over a struggling B.J. Upton.
With the new faces, Andrelton Simmons moved up to the five-hole. Simmons entered Sunday on a four-game hitting streak and had hit safely in six of his last seven games. He went 3-for-3 Saturday and scored the Braves' lone run.
• Schafer started in center for Upton against the Cardinals on Sunday. Upton has struggled during the road trip, going 4-for-19 and striking out 13 times. His 0-for-4 Saturday with four strikeouts led Gonzalez to decide to give him a day off.
"People sometimes go through some tough stretches," Gonzalez said. "That's why you run Schafer in there and get him back in there tomorrow."
• Jonny Venters had to cut short his bullpen Wednesday due to soreness as he attempts to come back from Tommy John surgery. He will be re-evaluated when the Braves return home Monday, but Gonzalez believes the soreness is normal.
"I don't know how many pitches he threw, but it was not the full slated amount we wanted him to," Gonzalez said. "They didn't seemed concerned over it. They made it seem like part of the process."
• Jamie Garcia, the starter for the Cardinals on Sunday, offers just what the ailing Braves offense might need -- a left-handed starter. The Braves entered Sunday fifth in the National League against lefties with a .272 average. Chris Johnson is tops in the National League with a .524 average against southpaws.
"I feel this team can hit anybody at any given time," Gonzalez said before Saturday's game. "Talented bunch of guys, we just haven't gotten going. It may be today, you never know. You look at matchups and you look the guy who's pitching and think we've got no chance today and that's the night you score 11. And then you're chomping on the bit and thinking we're going to crush whoever because the matchup is favorable whether he's a lefty or a righty and the next thing you know he's in the eighth with a one-hitter. That's the game of baseball."
Joe Harris is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.