Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Paul Maholm reacts after giving up a grand slam to the Chicago White Sox during one of his last starts before going on the DL.
ATLANTA — Nearly a month since he’d last pitched in a game, Braves veteran Paul Maholm got encouraging results in 5-2/3 innings of work during an injury-rehab start Saturday for Class-A Rome.
The left-hander allowed one run, four hits and no walks with six strikeouts in a 6-2 win against Charleston, with nine ground ball outs and two fly outs.
“Everything felt good,” said Maholm, on the disabled list recovering from a sprained and bruised left wrist. “I got plenty of ground balls. It’s a little different throwing to A-ball guys, but it was good just to get on the mound and be out there in competition.”
The Braves haven’t said when they intend to activate him or work him back into a staff that currently has five starters all pitching well. Maholm went 9-9 with a 4.41 ERA in 20 starts before injuring his wrist while batting in a game at Miami.
He said he felt ready after one rehab game.
“I’m going to talk to (team officials) and see what they want me to do, and what role they want me to come back in,” Maholm said.
Although manager Fredi Gonzalez seems reluctant to use a six-man rotation, he’s mentioned possibly plugging Maholm into the rotation and giving another starter extra rest by bumping him back a few days.
Maholm has just one relief appearance in 237 major league games over nine seasons with the Pirates, Cubs and Braves, but there’s been some speculation he might possibly be used in a bullpen role. He’s allowed a .203 average, .254 OBP and .271 slugging percentage against left-handed hitters, compared with .301/.366/.476 against right-handers.
BJ SEEING LIMITED ACTION: B.J. Upton, who signed a five-year deal worth $75.25 million as a free agent to join the Braves, appears to be a platoon player at the moment.
Gonzalez doesn’t want to call him that, but that is the reality of the Braves’ center-field situation at the moment.
Upton has started just three of the Braves’ past seven games, all against left-handers. Jordan Schafer has started the other four, when right-handers started.
In a hitting slump almost all season, Upton is trying to stay positive no matter who manager Fredi Gonzalez writes into the lineup.
“I’m just rolling with it,” Upton said. “If I come in and I’m in the lineup, I’m in there. If I’m not, then I’m not. I really don’t have an argument. What’s my argument?
“He’s going to play who he wants to play and that’s fine with me, as long as we win. I’m going to support my teammates. We all have the same goal, and that is to win a championship, get a ring.”
The former Tampa Bay outfielder was supposed to be a big part of that. So far, he has been mostly a bystander.
Upton got a start against Washington left-hander Gio Gonzalez on Sunday, opening the 2-1 victory with a walk, stealing second and scoring the game’s first run on a single by Freddie Freeman. But he was hitless with two strikeouts in his other three at-bats.
“I’m just trying to get a matchup for both of them and see what Schafer can do a little bit,” Gonzalez said. “I think B.J. is going to help us big come the next five to six weeks. We’ll try to get him a good matchup and get him going. I think he’s going to be a big part of this run we’ve got.”
Upton was 10-for-21 in his first five games after coming off the disabled list on Aug. 3, but is 0-for-19 since. That has dropped his average to .186 and he has 118 strikeouts in 317 at-bats.
Schafer, meanwhile, stole two bases as a pinch runner in the seventh inning on Sunday, and is hitting .291. But he was just 2-for-16 in his four starts since missing five weeks with a broken ankle.
Pitching plans: After using Kris Medlen for three innings of relief in Saturday’s 15-inning loss to Washington, the Braves will bump his next start to Friday at St. Louis. Originally, he’d been scheduled to start today at New York.
Brandon Beachy will start today and Alex Wood on Wednesday in the finale of the two-game series against the Mets, and for the four games at St. Louis the Braves will start Mike Minor followed by Medlen, Julio Teheran and Beachy.
Tyler Greene signed: After their recent rash of injuries, the Braves signed utility infielder Tyler Greene to a minor league contract and assigned him to Triple-A Gwinnett.
Greene, who turned 30 on Saturday, had a career-best season in 2012 with St. Louis and Houston, batting .230 with 36 extra-base hits (11 home runs) and 12 stolen bases in 116 games and 305 at-bats.
He began the 2013 season in the White Sox organization and hit .222 with one homer and a .263 OBP in 54 at-bats in the majors before being released while playing in Triple-A.
Greene has a .224 average and .289 OBP with 17 homers and 28 stolen bases in 288 major league games in parts of five seasons mostly with the Cardinals, who made him the 30th overall draft pick in 2005. He’s played 125 games at second base, 115 at shortstop, 22 at third base and 14 in the outfield.
Strasburg vs. Braves: When Stephen Strasburg was ejected in the second inning Saturday after throwing three consecutive wild pitches against Andrelton Simmons, the last two sailing behind him, it continued an oddly erratic history for the Nationals ace against the Braves.
He threw seven consecutive balls to start the second inning, walking Jordan Schafer on four, then allowing Schafer to round the bases on as many wild pitches (three) as Strasburg had thrown previously all season.
Strasburg is 1-2 with 5.79 ERA in six starts at Turner Field, and lasted three innings or fewer in three of the past four. He’s 1-2 with a 3.72 ERA in his past eight starts against the Braves, and 0-1 with a 2.68 ERA in five this season.
NOTES: Jason Heyward continued his torrid hitting with two homers Saturday. In his past 61 games before Sunday, he hit .310 with 27 extra-base hits (11 homers), a .382 OBP and .519 slugging percentage. Heyward was out of the lineup for a rest Sunday, but entered the game as part of a double-switch in the seventh inning and went 0-for-1 … The Braves played 15 innings Saturday and scored seven earned runs without getting a hit with runners in scoring position (0-for-7) … Braves hitters struck out 20 times Saturday, including five by Justin Upton (0-for-6, hit by pitch) and three by Schafer. Besides Upton, the other four batters in the top five of the order — Heyward, Freddie Freeman, Brian McCann, Chris Johnson — were 9-for-28 on Saturday with four home runs, six RBIs and five runs.
Information from Reuters News Service was used in this report