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BRAVES NOTEBOOK: Atlanta '95 percent' Beachy will return tonight vs. Rockies

Brandon Beachy has been hot and cold in his rehab starts, but he'll get a taste of being back in the majors tonight when he pitches for the first time since Tommy John surgery.

Brandon Beachy has been hot and cold in his rehab starts, but he'll get a taste of being back in the majors tonight when he pitches for the first time since Tommy John surgery.

ATLANTA --- The Braves are “95 percent sure” Brandon Beachy will start today against the Rockies in place of the injured Tim Hudson. Beachy was back at Turner Field off his minor league rehabilitation assignment to throw a side session Saturday.

“We’re going to make sure that he wakes up tomorrow (feeling good),” Gonzalez said. “That’s why we haven’t officially announced it, but I don’t foresee anything. After his last start he was good, his last couple of starts.”

Beachy is expected to return after 13 1/2 months out following Tommy John surgery in place of Hudson, who suffered a gruesome ankle fracture Wednesday night at Citi Field.

The Braves plan to put Paul Maholm on the disabled list when they activate Beachy. Maholm is nursing a sore left wrist, which Gonzalez said still bothered him when he tried to throw Friday.

“We shut him down after about 10, 12 tosses,” Gonzalez said. “Just as suspected. It’s going to be a while.”

He wouldn’t be eligible to come off the DL until Aug. 5.

Heyward tried in leadoff spot: When Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez penciled in Jason Heyward in the leadoff spot Saturday for only the second time this season and the third time of his career, Gonzalez said, “I succumbed.”

And he smiled.

“Let him do that for a little bit,” Gonzalez said.

Heyward was 0-for-3 on Saturday during a 2-0 win against the Cardinals, but the game plan going forward won’t be based off one outing.

What was a momentary thing when Heyward batted leadoff against Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals on May 31 is now some “tinkering” that Gonzalez is doing with a lineup that doesn’t really have a true leadoff hitter.

Andrelton Simmons has hit .223 (60-for-269) with a .261 on-base percentage in 61 games in the leadoff spot. He’s among the hardest in the league to strike out (only once every 12.8 at-bats, third in the National League), but he doesn’t walk much either (23 walks) and has the third-lowest on-base percentage in the NL (.279). Gonzalez had Simmons hit eighth against the Cardinals on Saturday.

Heyward isn’t built like your typical leadoff hitter either, which is why Gonzalez has been hesitant to move him up. But this move allowed Gonzalez to put Justin Upton in the No. 2 spot, and he hopes to get him going with Freddie Freeman, the Braves’ most consistent hitter this season, batting behind him. Upton entered Saturday’s game 1-for-21 over his previous five games.

“If Jason were 5-10, you’d say, ‘Oh, he’s your leadoff guy,’” Gonzalez said. “But because he’s 6-foot-6 and 240 and can drive the ball out of the ballpark, you’re always hesitant to bat him in the leadoff spot.”

But Heyward’s speed, his eye and his ability to use all fields make him a candidate.

“He draws base on balls; he’s dangerous,” Gonzalez said. “... I think he’s a guy to do it. It also splits up the left-handers, and going into the game today, I knew I maybe wanted to hit Justin Upton in the two-hole.”

Scouting report: A friendly game of cards at the All-Star game gave Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright some insights into getting Freddie Freeman out at the plate.

Wainwright, who teamed with fellow Cardinal Matt Carpenter in a game of “pluck” against Freeman and Braves closer Craig Kimbrel in New York, had asked Freeman if he were a pitcher how would he get himself out.

Freeman tried reverse psychology and told Wainwright fastballs away. So when he faced Wainwright on Friday at Turner Field? Freeman saw nothing but pitches in on his hands. He struck out three times in three at-bats against Wainwright.

“He didn’t do what I told him to do to me,” Freeman said. “I didn’t get one sinker (that) night. I got cutters off my legs. I can’t hit in, Adam.”

In New York, when Wainwright was asked about the scouting report, the Georgia native said: “I always do that because sometimes you can get an answer. A couple years ago when I was in Triple-A, I asked Lance Berkman ‘If you were pitching against yourself how would you get yourself out,’ and he answered it. So two years later I was pitching against him and I followed his advice and I got him out. Now I always throw that question out there. Freddie almost answered it.”

Wainwright smiled, then added: “By telling me what he wants, at least I get something.”

Minor’s cutter: After Mike Minor held the Cardinals to one run on seven innings in a 4-1 win Friday, Carlos Beltran commented to reporters that Minor had featured a cutter they hadn’t seen from him before.

Actually, Minor said Saturday, he’s thrown the cutter — or what he considers more of a slider — all along, but against the Cardinals he used it inside more to help him establish both sides of the plate against a good hitting lineup.

He threw it at the back leg of right-handed hitters such as Beltran, Yadier Molina and David Freese.

“I made sure I established in,” Minor said. “It was a cutter at the back foot which makes them move their feet or think in. They have to respect it. Then if throw a fastball in, they have to make a decision. I had a couple strikeouts with fastballs in.”

Minor said he lost confidence in it last year, giving up home runs on cutters up, but when Brian McCann calls for it now, Minor can command it at the knees, or in the dirt if he misses.

“I’m getting more comfortable with it,” Minor said.