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Braves’ Walden returns to bullpen that’s really missed him

After spending five weeks on the disabled list with a strained hamstring, Braves reliever Jordan Walden returned to the bullpen Tuesday. (Reuters)

After spending five weeks on the disabled list with a strained hamstring, Braves reliever Jordan Walden returned to the bullpen Tuesday. (Reuters)

DENVER — The Braves activated reliever Jordan Walden from the disabled list Tuesday, and manager Fredi Gonzalez believes he could have a ripple effect for a bullpen that’s struggled in recent weeks to get leads from the starting pitchers to closer Craig Kimbrel.

“I think it affects everybody, really,” Gonzalez said. “It’s an experienced guy that’s done it before, he’s been real successful for us. And you can put other guys in certain roles and get them through bad periods of time. We all have bad periods of time — whether an offensive player or a pitcher — and cover it that way.”

With veteran David Carpenter going through a rough stretch, Gonzalez has recently used prospect Shae Simmons, just up from Double-A, and second-year left-hander Alex Wood, along with rookie David Hale occasionally, to pitch in seventh- and eighth-inning situations in close games.

Those are situations that were handled in the past by the likes of Carpenter and Walden, and by left-handers Eric O’Flaherty and Jonny Venters before their elbow surgeries early in the 2013 season. Walden has been out five weeks with a strained hamstring.

The Braves have already lost more games (six) when leading after six innings than they lost in all of the 2013 season (five). They were 4-8 in their past 12 games before Monday, including 2-5 in games decided by one or two runs. They had consecutive one-run losses Saturday and Sunday at Arizona, where they blew leads after the sixth inning both days.

Walden had five strikeouts in 1 2/3 innings in his two relief appearances at Triple-A Gwinnett Thursday and Sunday, and the Braves wanted to give him another day to recover and make sure he was ready before activating him.