Escobar providing defensive highlights
Braves shortstop credited with saving Saturday's game
SAN FRANCISCO -- While Jason Heyward impressed with a three-hit game during Saturday night's 7-2 win over the Giants, the Braves were well aware of the fact that the game may have been decided when Yunel Escobar added to his long list of stellar defensive plays.With the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth inning, Escobar kept the game tied at 1 by ranging to his right and denying Eli Whiteside of a single that would have scored at least one run. The Braves shortstop backhanded Whiteside's grounder and made a strong throw that first baseman Troy Glaus easily picked out of the dirt. "That play he made last night was a game-saver," Braves veteran utility player Eric Hinske said. "In my mind that was the turning point of the game. There aren't a whole lot of shortstops in the game that can make that play. I have seen him play a lot, but he's very special. He makes plays and can throw from certain angles that guys can't do. So he's extraordinary." Since decreasing the number of aggressive mental blunders that plagued him during the first half of last year, Escobar has proven to be both an exciting and dependable shortstop. Since committing 11 errors in the first 66 games he played last year, he has been charged with just three more in the 79 games that have followed. "We're so lucky to have him on our team to be our shortstop and make plays that I think he has no chance to get to," Braves catcher Brian McCann said. "It's every night, too. He brings his glove to the field every single night. Those guys are so hard to find."
Chipper sidetracked by back spasms
SAN FRANCISCO -- Chipper Jones experienced a setback Sunday afternoon when he experienced back spasms while testing his strained right oblique muscle with some swings in the indoor batting cages at AT&T Park.But after the Braves lost for the third time in four games Sunday, Jones said there's still a good chance he could return to the lineup during this week's series in San Diego. He has been sidelined since leaving Thursday's game against the Cubs with the oblique strain. "If I can come out and swing the bat tomorrow, I want to play," Jones said Sunday. "[Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton] is pushing for Wednesday, just to get me more rest tomorrow and [during Tuesday's] off-day. But it's awfully hard for me to sit back with us losing." Jones said he isn't too concerned about the possibility that the back spasms will provide lingering discomfort. But he would like to awake Monday and be able to swing better than he did Sunday. "I took some swings lefty and I really couldn't extend on anything," the veteran switch-hitter said. "I swung a little bit at about 75 percent and then turned around right-handed and took about 10 swings and my back locked up. I don't think it's going to do much for my timetable. The back spasm will go away. I'm just worried about the oblique."
Hinske sees merits to bench in both leagues
SAN FRANCISCO -- While spending the majority of his career in the American League, Eric Hinske grew accustomed to being a role player who found his name in the starting lineup as either a position player or designated hitter.When Hinske signed with the Braves in January, he knew that his opportunities to be in the lineup would decrease. But at the same time, he looked forward to the opportunity to play more frequently via the pinch-hitting role that is utilized much more frequently in the National League. "For me, it helps because you get to pinch-hit," Hinske said. "So I get my at-bats over here. But at the same time you have the luxury of starting more in the American League. I might start some game here, but I'm not an everyday player. So I just stay ready. Whenever my name is on that card, I go out there and do everything I can." Hinske was scheduled to make his first start of the season at first base. Troy Glaus, who has hit .238 (5-for-21) and tallied six strikeouts through the first five games of the season, was given the day off. Hinske has collected two hits -- a double and triple -- through his first four pinch-hit at-bats of the season. The veteran switch-hitter will likely see most of his time in the field spent at first base when the opposing team is starting a right-handed pitcher. He has hit .221 in his career against left-handers and .263 against right-handers.
Proctor does well in rehab outing
SAN FRANCISCO -- Scott Proctor is providing the Braves reason to believe that he is ready to make his return from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery. The veteran reliever made another strong impression Sunday afternoon, when he worked a perfect eighth inning for Triple-A Gwinnett in its game against Charlotte.During the two appearances he made for Gwinnett this weekend, Proctor completed a pair of perfect innings, registered three strikeouts and threw 16 of his 22 pitches for strikes. The 33-year-old right-handed reliever underwent the surgical procedure on May 5. If Proctor continues to pitch effectively and in a pain-free manner this week, there's a chance the Braves could activate him from the disabled list next weekend. After an exhibition game on April 2, manager Bobby Cox said that the veteran reliever would go to Gwinnett to complete a rehab schedule that would last at least two weeks.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.