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BRAVES NOTEBOOK: Atlanta still waiting on consistent production from outfield

After smacking 12 homers in the first month of the season, Braves left fielder Justin Upton has gone cold at the plate.

After smacking 12 homers in the first month of the season, Braves left fielder Justin Upton has gone cold at the plate.

ATLANTA — Justin Upton still leads all National League outfielders in fan voting for the All-Star Game, but he hasn’t really been deserving of the support despite his red-hot start.

After setting a Braves record with 12 homers in April, Upton hit just two the next six weeks while barely batting .200.

It looks like he finally may be coming out of his funk, though.

Upton hit his first homer in 88 at-bats on Wednesday at San Diego and was 5-for-13 in the series against the Padres. That came after he had been 8-for-50 with no extra-base hits or RBI in the previous 13 games.

The left fielder still wasn’t supplying the same dramatics, as shown by his strikeout to end the series finally and give the Padres a three-game sweep. However, the improvement was encouraging.

Upton’s 15th homer was a mammoth blast estimated at 430 feet and he also had a double in the series. He hadn’t homered since hitting a grand slam against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Atlanta on May 17.

The Braves, who won Saturday to snap a four-game losing streak, haven’t had a time all season when every member of their hyped, young outfield was hitting. Will it finally happen now?

Jason Heyward and B.J. Upton — Justin’s older brother — are showing some life at the plate.

Heyward, who missed three weeks after undergoing an emergency appendectomy in late April, has definitely turned things around.

The right fielder came into the Braves’ weekend series with the San Francisco Giants on a 10-game hitting streak that had seen him bat .395 (17-for-43) with three doubles and three home runs. He had a two-homer game at San Diego on Monday.

Heyward was hitting just .142 before the streak. B.J. Upton was just a little better.

The center fielder finished May with a .145 average. June has been an improvement, though.

In the first 11 games of the month, B.J. had two homers and a double, and he added two more homers in Saturday’s win.

Midway in June, the first-place Braves are still waiting for the production they expected from their outfield.


Beachy scratched from Tuesday start with ‘minor setback’

ATLANTA — On the cusp of making his return from Tommy John surgery, the Braves have scratched Brandon Beachy from his highly-anticipated start Tuesday against the Mets because of elbow tenderness.

Braves general manager Frank Wren said the Braves consider this to be a minor setback, the first Beachy has experienced of any kind in his 12-month recovery from elbow surgery. They’ll rest him now and have given no immediate timetable for his return.

“We had hoped he could make this start on the doubleheader, but it wasn’t a make-or-break start obviously,” Wren said. “The most important thing is to get him healthy long term and we feel like pushing him back a little bit, giving him a little more time is the prudent thing to do.”

Beachy struggled with his command in three innings for Triple-A Gwinnett Thursday night in Rochester, walking four and allowing three runs (two earned) while throwing only 38 strikes in 69 pitches. He was examined by Braves team doctors on Friday evening at Turner Field.

Wren said doctors characterized the problem as inflammation and said there were no immediate plans for Beachy to undergo an MRI.

“We’re going to continue to watch it,” Wren said. “He was as little tender after the last start and this time he was a little more tender. It’s just the smart thing to do just to slow it down and give him time because he’s had a really unremarkable rehab until this point. So we feel like everything is going to be fine. We’ve just got to slow down.”

For all the talk of who would exit the Braves rotation when Beachy returns, the immediate question now is who will start in Beachy’s place Tuesday against the Mets. Paul Maholm will start one game of the doubleheader. Wren said the Braves won’t divulge who starts the other until after today’s finale against the Giants.

Beachy is a week shy of the year anniversary of his June 21, 2012 surgery.

“He’s disappointed,” Wren said, who made the announcement in the sixth inning of Friday’s game against the Giants. “I think he was excited to get back out there and perform. So I think he’s disappointed in that regard but he’s also a smart young guy, he knows that’s the best thing.”

In five official rehabilitation starts combined in Rome, Mississippi and Gwinnett, Beachy gave up eight earned runs in 22 innings. He struck out 22 and walked 12, while giving up four home runs.