ATLANTA -- After waiting in vain for right fielder Geoff Jenkins to get hot, Brewers manager Ned Yost said Friday he planned to bench the slumping veteran for the rest of the season and will spread more playing time to Corey Hart and Gabe Gross.
Jenkins, 32, the Brewers' highest-paid hitter in the wake of the Carlos Lee trade and an everyday Brewers starter since 1999, is hitting .254 this season with 10 home runs and 57 RBIs. He has three home runs in 232 at-bats since May 19, seven RBIs over the last month and was hitting .140 over his last 43 at-bats.
"We know what we've got in Jenks and what Jenks is capable of doing," Yost said. "But we don't really know what we've got in Gabe and Corey right now. We like their abilities to this point, but we want to extend their playing time and find out the last six weeks.
"That gives Jenks time to sit back. He's been pressing. This stuff doesn't go by him. This has affected him, too. The booing at home affects him a little bit. Players will say that it doesn't, but it does. It's hard on them, and he presses [at Miller Park] to do good. This is a time for him to step back and make his adjustments and get back to the player that we know he is."
Yost said he has been mulling the move for several weeks, and he communicated the decision to Jenkins on Friday. Jenkins is in the second year of a three-year, $23 million contract that expires at the end of next season. He is to make at least $7 million in 2007 and the club has a $9 million option for 2008.
The Brewers' first-round draft pick in 1995, Jenkins has played parts of the last nine seasons with the Brewers and is the team's longest continuously-tenured player.
"That's probably why it's taken me so long to do it," Yost said of the decision he has been mulling for weeks. "I harp on these guys that production counts, and production counts for everybody, not just for rookies."
Jenkins was out of the lineup for the second straight day as the Brewers opened a three-game series at Turner Field against the Braves. For the second straight day, he declined comment.
"I've got nothing to say about it right now," Jenkins said.
"He doesn't like the decision, but I think he understands where I'm coming from," Yost said. "I think he knows that he struggled this year, but he is very capable of putting up big numbers and he needs to make some adjustments."
How will Jenkins be used for the rest of 2006?
"I don't know," Yost said. "I can't give you an honest answer because I'm not sure. Right now, we'll be playing Corey out there [in right field] three or four, maybe five days a week, and Gabe in left and center, and Jenks in right field some, and some off the bench."
Yost hopes Jenkins makes those adjustments during the offseason. Jenkins has spoken at various junctures in recent seasons about eliminating the front leg lift that distinguishes his swing. At times, the leg lift throws off the timing of Jenkins' swing.
Yost took full responsibility for the decision, which he communicated to general manager Doug Melvin. Yost said the team's principal owner, Mark Attanasio, was not consulted in the decision.
"It wasn't anything that they pressured me to do," Yost said. "I made the decision. I didn't call Mark and I didn't call Doug. I told Doug that this was what I was going to do. The time is right to look at Gabe and Corey.
"But this isn't an end-all," Yost continued. "I think Jenks is going to make adjustments and find it and get back to the player that he can be. It's just a temporary thing."
Gross, 26, was acquired in the offseason from Toronto and was batting .265 entering Friday's start with nine home runs and 32 RBIs. He has started 26 games in center field, seven in left and two in right.
Hart, 24, was the team's 11th-round draft pick in 2000 and was hitting .299 this season with one home run, eight RBIs and four stolen bases. Hart was hitting .379 (11-for-29) as a pinch-hitter and had started seven games in right field and one in left.
"Corey is going to be an outstanding player," said Brewers outfield coach Dave Nelson. "He looks a little funny sometimes, the way he does things, but he's always been able to hit and he's gotten a lot better in the outfield."
The Brewers parted with outfield prospect Nelson Cruz in the trade that sent Carlos Lee to Texas, a sign of the organization's belief in Hart. He will focus on right field, Nelson said, because the team looks at newcomer Kevin Mench as a better fit in left. Mench is Brewers property for at least two more years after 2006.
"Corey is more comfortable out there than he was," Nelson said. "[When he first came up to the Majors], he would play not to make a mistake, and he's not doing that any more. He's more confident in his ability, and I think the more playing time he gets, the better he's going to be out there."
Still, it was not an easy decision.
"It isn't a decision I made lightly or with a snap judgment," Yost said. "I kept trying to extend it, extend it, hoping to get him going. I try to give everybody full opportunity to get through it when they're struggling."
"Trying to hit him was like trying to drink coffee with a fork." - Willie Stargell on Sandy Koufax