05/14/10 11:58 PM ET
Escobar set for Saturday return in Atlanta
By Chris Hempson and Mark Bowman / MLB.com
The Braves shortstop has been out since April 29 with a strained left groin, and he spent Friday playing a Minor League rehab game for Triple-A Gwinnett.
During his team's 3-0 victory, Escobar tallied two singles and scored a run. And in the bottom of the second inning, he was even intentionally walked.
Still, even before Escobar's performance for Gwinnett, manager Bobby Cox knew he'd be seeing Escobar soon -- in an Atlanta Braves uniform, that is.
"I think he's 100 percent ready," Cox said.
Cox tries Prado out in leadoff spot
ATLANTA -- The numbers haven't been pretty for any Braves hitter manning the leadoff position. Before Friday night, a .158 batting average and a .253 on-base percentage -- both last in the Majors -- were associated with this spot in the team's lineup.
So once again, manager Bobby Cox decided to mix things up at the top. With a healthy Chipper Jones back at his customary third spot in the lineup for Friday night's series opener against the D-backs, Cox had Martin Prado in the leadoff spot and Jason Heyward in the two-hole.
And boy did the lineup deliver, especially Prado.
He had hit .312 on the year -- prior to the start of the D-backs series -- but Friday was his first go-around as the team's leadoff man this season, making him the sixth Braves hitter to bat in the top spot this year. Cox had been looking to staple down the top of his batting order, and went to those three in order to increase the team's on-base percentage from the get-go.
Right away, Prado managed to stir the pot in his new role, knocking a deep shot to center in his first at-bat of the night, only to be robbed at the wall with a great catch by Chris Young. Prado continued to work the D-backs pitchers, garnering a walk in the third and hitting a single in the sixth inning.
"[Prado's] not a fun guy," Braves closer Billy Wagner said. "For me, I'm probably going to try and walk him. He's good enough with the bat that you know he's going to beat you. He really has that bat control. It's tough. He hit a nasty pitch right on the line. He two singles right on the line. He's a tough out. He's not the guy you want to face when you have to throw strikes."
Heyward hasn't been either, and in the fourth inning, he demolished a double. Jones, meanwhile, nearly tallied two hits. His performance was noted by Cox postgame, as the Braves manager suggested Jones might be turning the corner.
Prado hasn't had much misfortune this season. He has easily been one of the team's most consistent offensive performers in the 2010 campaign. He not only leads the team in hits with 46, but also is the only Braves player with a double-figure total in doubles with 10 on the season.
In the bottom of the ninth, Prado continued with such successes. This time, with the bases loaded and the Braves down a run, Prado chopped a single over first base for a walk-off, two-run single.
"[D-backs reliever Chad Qualls] threw me a slider, and I just put my bat, and fortunately, that was a good result for us," Prado said.
LaRoche, Johnson back at Turner Field
ATLANTA -- Adam LaRoche still doesn't understand why the Braves didn't at least attempt to contact him during the offseason. Kelly Johnson was just happy to return to Atlanta this weekend with some of the confidence that he lost last summer.
When LaRoche and Johnson arrived at Turner Field with their D-backs teammates for Friday night's series opener, they got reacquainted with some of their former Braves teammates and said that they don't have any hard feelings toward the organization that gave them their first shot to be Major Leaguers.
"When [Braves general manager Frank Wren] told me I was going to be non-tendered, it wasn't like I was disappointed or mad," Johnson said. "I understood. I heard from a lot of teams pretty quickly, so that felt good."
When Johnson hit .215 during his final 77 games last year, there was little doubt that the Braves would non-tender him and continue utilizing Martin Prado as their starting second baseman. But it is somewhat surprising that Johnson entered this weekend's series hitting .269 with 10 homers -- the National League's second-highest total.
"[My swing] is a little more free and easy," Johnson said. "It's not as forced. Even when I'm not getting to pitches, I feel more confident. It just feels like I'm more like myself. It's just not as forced."
Avoiding the horrendous early-season slumps that have plagued him throughout his career, LaRoche entered Friday hitting .257 with four homers. After hitting .325 with 12 homers after the Braves re-acquired him from the Red Sox on July 31, the veteran first baseman thought he would have at least fielded some kind of offer from Wren.
But the Braves opted instead to pursue a right-handed bat and ended up landing Troy Glaus.
"I can't say it wasn't a sad day," said LaRoche, who spent his first three Major League seasons (2004-06) with the Braves. "I was a little bit shocked that nothing was going to happen from a negotiations standpoint."
Teheran promoted to Myrtle Beach
ATLANTA -- With nothing left to prove against overmatched opponents in the South Atlantic League, Julio Teheran learned Friday that the Braves had promoted him to advanced Class A Myrtle Beach.
During his seven starts with Class A Rome this year, Teheran posted a 1.14 ERA and limited opponents to a .168 batting average. The 19-year-old right-hander, who is considered by many to be the organization's top pitching prospect, recorded 45 strikeouts and issued just 10 walks in the 39 1/3 innings that encompassed this span.
Teheran now joins a rotation that already includes the talented Randall Delgado. In his first seven starts for Myrtle Beach, the 20-year-old Delgado posted a 2.88 ERA and limited opponents to a .211 batting average.
Chris Hempson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. MLB.com reporter Mark Bowman contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.