ATLANTA -- One of Braves manager Bobby Cox's health-related concerns was lessened on Thursday afternoon, after he watched John Thomson successfully complete a bullpen session.
Thomson, who strained a muscle in his left side last Saturday at Wrigley Field, threw at near full strength during the side session, which was monitored by Cox, team physician Dr. Joe Chandler and trainer Jeff Porter.
"He had a very, very good side session," Cox said. "So he's going to be ready to go."
Having proven to be healthy enough, Thomson now will simply focus on preparing for his National League Division Series Game 3 start, which will come against the Astros at Minute Maid Park on Saturday afternoon.
After evaluating Thomson, Porter said that the right-hander is still feeling some discomfort. But the fact that he has shown progress since throwing a side session on Tuesday leaves the Braves hopeful that he won't aggravate the injury during Saturday's game.
"He didn't go backwards last time," Porter said. "So we don't expect him to this time. But that's always a concern."
John Thomson / P
Weight: 220 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
If Thomson is injured during the early innings of Saturday's game, the Braves would likely call Russ Ortiz out of the bullpen. With Ortiz tentatively scheduled to start Game 4, Cox would then have to shuffle his plans again.
Instead of bringing Jaret Wright back on three days' rest, Cox would start Paul Byrd in Game 4.
While suffering the Game 1 loss on Wednesday, Wright was hit on the left shin by a Morgan Ensberg chopper. Unlike when he was hit on the right foot with a line-drive comebacker on Sept. 28, the gritty right-hander was able to stay in the game to complete his forgettable 4 1/3-inning performance.
"The bruise on the shin isn't going to stop [Wright] from [starting] Game 5, that's for sure," Cox said.
Jaret Wright / P
Weight: 230 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
Wright in a slump: Wright earned the Game 1 start because he was the Braves' most consistently dominant pitcher throughout the year. But recently, the right-hander has been less than imposing against opposing hitters.
In his first 11 starts after the All-Star break, Wright was 8-1 with a 2.59 ERA. In his past five starts -- including Wednesday's, in which he allowed six earned runs in 4 1/3 innings -- he is 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA.
"I've had pretty much the same stuff all year," Wright said. "It hasn't been my 'A' stuff lately. But I still felt like I had enough to get through the games. I think that all the mistakes I made yesterday they hit out of the park."
The three homers allowed by Wright on Wednesday matched a career high. He also surrendered that total in his Major League debut on June 24, 1997, in Game 4 of the '97 ALCS and on Oct. 3, 1999.
Wright yielded a total of 11 homers during his 32 regular-season starts this year. He allowed more than one homer in a game just twice.
"I don't think his [right foot] bothered him much yesterday at all," Cox said. "He made a lot of good pitches and made a couple that they really jumped on."
Julio Franco / 1B
Weight: 190 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
The old man is still playing: Before Thursday afternoon's game, former Brave David Justice, who is in town to handle his broadcast duties for ESPN, took his turn to throw a friendly jab at ageless wonder Julio Franco.
As the 46-year-old Franco was taking batting practice, he heard Justice say, "Hey, Julio did you hit behind Hank [Aaron]?"
Franco simply smiled and responded, "No, in front of him."
When Justice won the NL Rookie of the Year in 1990, Franco had just completed his ninth full season in the Majors. Since Justice retired after the 2002 season, Franco has registered 157 hits and proven to be one of the most important figures on the Braves roster.
"There's no doubt [Franco] is a freak of nature," Chipper Jones said. "I think he started playing when they were still wearing their caps to the plate and when they were leaving their gloves at shortstop and stuff."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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