Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Juan Francisco and Chris Johnson will see time at third.
Third basemen Juan Francisco and Chris Johnson each went out this spring to win a starting job. The problem was that both men played so well that the Braves seem to be right back where they started.
Entering the final week of spring training, manager Fredi Gonzalez opted not to declare a winner in the only real positional battle in Atlanta's camp.
Instead, he told MLB.com's Mark Bowman that both men have performed so well that a platoon may be unavoidable.
"I think both of those guys are playing such great baseball," Gonzalez said. "Right now, I think it would be unfair to choose one as a starter."
Johnson, 28, was acquired in the January trade that brought Justin Upton to Atlanta. His spring numbers have been more than respectable. In 27 games, he hit .366 with three homers, 12 RBI and 11 runs scored.
Those totals are a decent indicator that Johnson is tuning his swing up nicely for 2013.
If only things were that simple.
Francisco, 25, has been in lockstep with Johnson this spring, batting .343 with six home runs, 14 RBI and 12 runs scored himself. The edge in the power department goes to Francisco, who clubbed 10 extra-base hits to Johnson's five during Grapefruit League play.
While two players performing extremely well at the same position is one of the better problems for a team to have, it poses a challenge for the manager when filling out the lineup card each night.
Unlike Francisco, Johnson has served as an everyday player in the big leagues. He split his 2012 season between the Astros and the Diamondbacks, batting .281 with 15 homers and 76 RBI while playing in 136 games.
Spelling Chipper Jones at times in 2012, Francisco hit .262 with nine home runs and 27 RBI in 42 games started. His Achilles heel is an inability to hit left-handers thus far in his big league career.
Until further notice, Gonzalez will play the one he feels gives the club the best chance to win on that given night.