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06/19/11 6:06 PM ET

O'Flaherty battling lingering back issues

ATLANTA -- Braves pitcher Eric O'Flaherty continues to battle back discomfort, but manager Fredi Gonzalez doesn't foresee having to place the left-hander on the disabled list any time soon.

"Just going from my experiences from the last time, it's three or four days, then he's good," Gonzalez said "He's a valuable piece. As soon as you put him on the DL, it's 15 days. So hopefully it's better."

O'Flaherty has pitched just once in Atlanta's last six games and hasn't made an appearance since June 15 against the Mets. He had pitched in five of the club's previous six games before the homestand began.

"It's something that you've got to manage a little bit," Gonzalez said. "When you have those little nagging injuries, like Chipper [Jones]. You hate to just [DL] a guy for 15 days.

"What are the alternatives? Until you can't [wait] anymore and you've got to do something. I don't think we're there yet."

O'Flaherty's back problems have lingered during his time with both the Braves and the Mariners. He missed most of the 2008 season with similar issues in Seattle before being waived at the end of the year.

The left-hander was expected to play some catch Sunday and may throw a small bullpen session and see how he feels, Gonzalez said.

McLouth activated off DL, starts in left field

ATLANTA -- Braves outfielder Nate McLouth was back in the lineup Sunday against the Rangers for the first time since going on the disabled list May 23 with a left oblique strain.

McLouth had been on rehab assignment for Triple-A Gwinnett over the last three days, going 3-for-6 with two walks, a hit by pitch, two runs and a RBI single.

"They felt good," McLouth said of his at-bats. "I was kind of glad [Saturday] night to get to face a lefty. We had just faced all righties the first couple of games. It was nice to face a lefty, although I did get drilled."

McLouth, who said he had no problems running the bases or playing defense, had been preparing for the move back to the Braves by playing left field for Gwinnett. With the emergence of Jordan Schafer in center field and everyday left fielder Martin Prado on the DL, McLouth's temporary move to left was necessary.

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McLouth had spoken with Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez a few days earlier about the move and was fine with the decision.

"Schafer, in my mind, is maybe the best defensive center fielder in the National League," McLouth said. "I know that I can play center field in the big leagues, but I also recognize that he's an elite center fielder defensive-wise. I got no problem moving to left.

"I was glad to play a couple games there [in Triple-A] and kind of reacquaint myself with it. It's not a ton different, but it's a little bit different. Luckily, I've played it a couple of years in the past, but it has been a couple years."

To make room on the roster, Joe Mather was designated for assignment. Mather, who was claimed off waivers by the Cardinals before the season, was hitting .094 (3-for-32) in June.

"That was a difficult decision. Like I told him, 'This is not a 15-minute or 15-second decision,'" Gonzalez said. "He brings some flexibility, he can play defense, he can play all kinds of positions. But he's been struggling swinging the bat. We just made the decision to give [Wilkin] Ramirez the opportunity to do that job."

Despite Mather's offensive struggles, Gonzalez said he would like to see Mather remain in the organization.

"I hope he clears waivers and we can keep him," he said.

McLouth, meanwhile, will try to improve on his own offensive struggles. He's got just one hit in his last 19 at-bats with Atlanta and hit .221 in May.

But he's not the only one. The Braves have been held to three runs or less in four of their last six games entering Sunday and have lost all four of those games.

"Things haven't been going great offensively, but sometimes throughout the course of the season, that happens. You kind of weather the storm," McLouth said. "We're fortune to have a good pitching staff and we're still in the middle of thing right now. Just wait for those bats to come around."

Freeman has productive day in finale

ATLANTA -- Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman was well aware of his offensive numbers heading into Sunday's finale against the Rangers.

"I fight and fight and work every day to try and get back to where I was," he said before the game. "It's slowly getting there. I felt a little bit better the last two at-bats of [Friday], especially the walk. I haven't walked in forever. I finally worked one of those. I've been swinging at a lot of balls."

Entering Sunday's finale with the Rangers, Freeman was hitting 3-for-24 (.125) with a whopping 15 strikeouts over his past six games. The slump came after a 12-game stretch when he hit .400 (20-for-50), with 11 RBIs and just 10 strikeouts.

But Freeman seemed to get back on track, going 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI in the Braves' 4-2 win over Texas. His only out came when Nelson Cruz robbed him of a hit at the top of the right-field wall in the second inning.

"You're going to go through those little stretches, and unfortunately mine was a strikeout stretch," Freeman said. "I got a couple to fall and got a big RBI that last inning to kind of spread the lead a little bit."

Freeman said he didn't think his recent mild oblique strain was a factor nor the blisters he had on his hand a few days ago. Instead, the first baseman thought his slump was just a matter of trying to do too much.

"I wanted to get hits instead of let the hits come to me. You can't do that," Freeman said. "It'll come real fast. You feel like you're going good and it'll just punch you right back. It's just one of those things everybody goes through. You just try to minimize it as much as you can -- try to not have it go too long."

Chris Cox is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.