WASHINGTON -- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez expects Brian McCann to start a throwing program within a few days. McCann left a game on July 26 with a strained left oblique that landed the catcher on the 15-day disabled list.

Once McCann throws, swinging a bat will be the last hurdle.

Gonzalez spoke with Washington bench coach Pat Corrales about the injury, because Nationals backstop Ivan Rodriguez is recovering from the same issue. Rodriguez initially made progress but suffered a setback while taking swings about two weeks after the injury. He has been sidelined since July 7 and is now undergoing physical therapy.

"There's no way to know until you start swinging," Gonzalez said.

Heyward enters as defensive substitution

WASHINGTON -- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez hesitated to use the phrase "sophomore slump," but that may be the best way to describe Jason Heyward's season.

The right fielder was out of the starting lineup for the second consecutive game on Wednesday against the Nationals. On Tuesday, it was a day off against left-hander John Lannan. For a 6-4 win in the series finale, it was because of Eric Hinske's strong numbers against Nats righty Chien-Ming Wang and Jose Constanza's torrid start since Friday's promotion to the Major Leagues.

"Just because he hasn't been in the lineup the past two days doesn't mean I'm giving up on him or anything like that," Gonzalez said. "If Hinske's numbers weren't as good as they were against Wang, Jason would have been in there."

Heyward entered the Braves' victory on Wednesday during a double-switch in the eighth and struck out looking after a working a 3-2 count in his only at-bat.

Gonzalez spoke to Heyward in Colorado the week before the Trade Deadline, warning him that another outfielder could be on the way, and Gonzalez would have to play whoever gave Atlanta the best chance to win down the stretch.

Michael Bourn arrived Monday from Houston, taking Constanza's spot in center field. But Constanza finished Wednesday 9-for-23 with two RBIs and three runs in six big league games, and Gonzalez wants to keep the rookie in the lineup.

Heyward finished the day hitting .223 this season after posting a .277 mark in his rookie year. He has spent 18 games on the disabled list in 2011 with right shoulder soreness, and although he doesn't feel 100 percent, he doesn't use it as an excuse, either.

And after seeing teammates Freddie Freeman and Dan Uggla recover from rough starts to finish the day on 18- and 25-game hitting streaks, respectively, and with an off-day Thursday, Heyward is confident the time off can work in his favor.

"I'm not going to press," he said. "There's not going to be any more pressure than there is naturally from wanting to do well and wanting to contribute. As far as these two days off, and going into the series in New York, I feel good about it. I should be well rested."

Chipper targeting Friday for return to lineup

WASHINGTON -- Chipper Jones was unable to field ground balls before Wednesday's game at Nationals Park, where the tarp was on the field because of a light rain, but he made enough progress to target a return to the lineup on Friday in New York.

"I felt better [Wednesday] than I did the day before," said Jones, who has a strained right quadriceps. "I could do more and was more active on defense. Running the bases was a little iffy, but I figure, given today and tomorrow, Friday will be the best day. If it is, I feel like I'm good enough to go out there and try it."

Jones has been limited to the role of a pinch-hitter since the injury, which allows him to swing a bat and run in a straight line, but not much else.

He took batting practice on Monday in Washington for the first time since suffering the injury, and fielded ground balls before each of the first two games. He made progress after the second day, and if he improves as much as he expects with Thursday off, he should be OK to play.

"You can throttle back when it comes to running the bases, but you can't on defense," Jones said. "Am I just going to let a ball go by me in the hole? No, it's not going to happen. I'm going to overextend, and I have to get to the point where I can overextend before I get out there [in a game]."