The Braves lost their entire starting outfield to injuries in a 26-hour span, and it didn’t appear that Jason Heyward or either of the Uptons, Justin and B.J., would play again before the All-Star break.
But none of the injuries was believed to be serious, and Braves officials think all three could be back shortly after the break, with one or more possibly returning as soon as the White Sox series that starts Friday in Chicago.
Heyward strained his right hamstring while sliding Thursday. On Friday, Braves officials cringed — then scrambled to come up with a plan — after B.J. Upton strained his right adductor muscle (near the groin) in the first inning and Justin Upton strained his left calf running to first base in the seventh.
They recalled outfielder Jose Constanza from Triple-A Gwinnett and started him in left field Saturday, with Reed Johnson in center and recent callup Joey Terdoslavich in right field for his first major league start.
Those three fill-ins combined for seven of the Braves’ 11 hits in a 5-2 win over the Reds, including a 3-for-4 day for Constanza batting leadoff.
Based on manager Fredi Gonzalez’s comments, Heyward seemed the best bet to return first.
“I think if we hold him out this weekend, he’s going to be fine,” Gonzalez said. “Because he’s responding to treatment. We’ll see how the other two outfielders will be.”
On Saturday morning, B.J. Upton said he was still sore, but not as much as he anticipated when he woke.
“No worse (than Friday), a little bit better,” he said. “Like I said last night, another day until the break, treat it and see how it feels coming off the All-Star break.”
Asked if it were a good sign that it hadn’t worsened overnight, he said, “Yeah, definitely. I thought it would be a lot worse. Especially after going home last night and giving it time to settle down. It didn’t really feel that great, so I didn’t know what to expect this morning. But I woke up this morning and it actually kind of felt better than it did last night. So we’ll see.”
B.J. Upton said it was too soon to have a good idea whether he’d be ready to play when the breaks ends.
Justin Upton was running on a groundout when his calf tightened halfway down the first-base line. “It’s calmed down,” he said after the game. “It’s a little sore. We’re kind of going to play it by ear tomorrow.”
He wasn’t made available to the media before Saturday’s game, but Justin Upton’s injury was one that Gonzalez said the Braves would be particularly cautious with, to make sure it doesn’t get aggravated and become a lingering issue.
“That’s the one that’s trickiest, because you don’t know what you have until you really check it out,” Gonzalez said. “And those calves can be nagging.”
After Saturday’s game, Gonzalez and general manager Frank Wren said Upton had been examined and the calf injury didn’t appear to be anything more than a mild strain or severe cramp.
“Rev” in center: Not only did the Braves lose all of their starting outfielders Thursday and Friday, they also found out Friday that backup outfielder Jordan Schafer has a stress fracture in his right ankle and will probably be out at least another 3-4 weeks.
Tyler Pastornicky, the former shortstop turned utility man, played the last two innings of Friday’s game in center field, where his only previous experience was three games at Triple-A Gwinnett. After Heyward’s injury Thursday, Pastornicky caught flyballs during batting practice Friday in case he was needed in the outfield.
“It’s been a while,” he said. “In Triple-A I got three starts in center field. I took flyballs and had early work (in the outfield) every day in Triple-A, but up here I really wasn’t doing it because of the way the roster was set up — there were so many outfielders, it seemed impossible (he would play outfield).”
But two injuries later, he was playing center field Friday, with veteran Reed Johnson having shifted over to right and Terdoslavich in left.
The only ball that came his way Friday was a grounder that got through the infield.
Rotation plans: The Braves will swap Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm’s turns but otherwise keep the rotation in order following the All-Star break. Hudson is set to start Friday’s series opener at Chicago against the White Sox, followed by Maholm, Kris Medlen, Mike Minor and Julio Teheran.
The Hudson-Maholm switch returns them to the order they had before those two veterans swapped turns last week at Philadelphia, a switch that was made to give Hudson extra rest for a nagging neck strain.