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Gonzalez gives McCann, Simmons much-needed off day

Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann sat out Wednesday against the Phillies to get an extra day or rest before today’s series opener against the hated Nationals.

Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann sat out Wednesday against the Phillies to get an extra day or rest before today’s series opener against the hated Nationals.

ATLANTA — With the off day Thursday, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez kept Andrelton Simmons and Brian McCann out of the lineup Wednesday so they would have back-to-back days to rest and recover a bit.

Both are OK to play but are a little “banged up” from last week’s series in Washington. McCann’s knee started bothering him after playing on what he said is a really hard surface around home plate at Nationals Park. Simmons fouled a ball off his left leg in his last at-bat Wednesday against Nationals reliever Craig Stammen.

“He plays so hard, and he’s a little banged up right now,” Gonzalez said of Simmons. “We’ve done it in the past with him, keeping an eye on him and give him a little breather. Same thing with Mac, give him two days and keep him fresh, charged up for the rest of the season.”

Gonzalez gave Paul Janish his first start of the season at shortstop and had Evan Gattis behind the plate. Simmons started the Braves’ previous 29 games, since sitting out a July 10 game in Miami.

Simmons entered the game in the fourth inning, though, when second baseman Tyler Pastornicky was injured in a collision with Jason Heyward. Janish moved from shortstop to second, and Simmons went in to play short.

QUICK CALL: Pastornicky had just finished taking his first round of batting practice, preparing to play his first game of the season in left field for Triple-A Gwinnett on Tuesday, when he was told to pack up and head to Turner Field. The Braves needed him to start at second base in place of Dan Uggla, who was put on the disabled list to undergo laser eye surgery.

“I tried to get in the car and hustle down here to beat some of that traffic,” Pastornicky said. “Luckily I got down here pretty quick, probably about 35, 40 minutes.”

The fifth call-up of his career and third of this season was a lot simpler than the previous one June 18, when he got a call at about 2:30 a.m. in his Buffalo, N.Y., hotel room. Gattis had injured his oblique during a rain-delayed game that ended at about 1:22 a.m. After catching a 6 a.m. flight, Pastornicky had to come off the bench to face Mets ace Matt Harvey in a pinch hit at-bat (he grounded out).

On Tuesday night, Pastornicky started at second, a position where he’s felt the most comfortable this season. After Pastornicky broke camp with the Braves last spring as their starting shortstop, he struggled on defense, and the Braves sent him to Gwinnett with the idea of converting him into a utility player. Pastornicky played three games in center field this year in Triple-A, one at third base, eight at shortstop and 59 at second base.

“I’ve taken a real liking to second,” Pastornicky said. “I feel like it’s probably my best position. I just feel a lot more comfortable there. Everything that I’ve gone through so far, the turns have gone smooth. It’s been a pretty good transition.”

Pastornicky will have familiar feeds around second base, too, from Janish, his shortstop combo for much of the season in Triple-A.

Pastornicky caught a line drive in the first inning Tuesday night against the Phillies and singled in his first at-bat.

“(Good to) get the nerves out of the way,” Pastornicky said. “It helps when you get a ball in the first inning and then you get a hit your first at-bat. That definitely takes (off) a lot of the pressure, makes you comfortable.”

INJURY UPDATES: Reliever Jordan Walden has continued to see improvement in his bruised right hand and hopes to be ready to return today when the Braves open a weekend series against the Nationals.

“It’s getting better, a lot better actually,” Walden said. “It’s still a little bit sore, so it just takes time for the bruising to go away.”

Walden took a line drive off his pitching hand Saturday night against the Marlins. X-rays were negative, but the base of his hand near his thumb is bruised and swollen. Walden said he felt some soreness in his thumb playing catch Tuesday, but he planned to play catch against Wednesday and Thursday.

“I should be ready by (today), hopefully,” Walden said.

Reed Johnson has taken batting practice and thrown over the past five or six days, but his sore Achilles is keeping him from running. He’s been on the DL since he injured his Achilles beating out an infield hit July 28 against the Cardinals.

“I’ve just been walking on the treadmill,” Johnson said. “I haven’t even really jogged yet, so I don’t even really know what the timetable would be from there.”

Johnson is having custom orthotics made that he hopes will help his recovery, but he’s guarding against rushing back too soon.

“Obviously I want to get back in there as soon as I can,” Johnson said. “But at the same time, I don’t want to get to a point where I come back a little too soon and reinjure it and all of a sudden it’s the playoffs are gone, the season’s gone.”

Johnson’s Achilles tendinitis flared up twice earlier this season, and he was able to play through it. At this point, he realizes it’s not going to be 100 percent until the season’s over.

“I’m just trying to get to a point where I can at least function as far as running and running down fly balls in the outfield,” Johnson said. “Once I get there, I’m going to ask to go out and play a few games (on a minor league rehabilitation assignment).”