© 2012 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

05/02/12 12:44 AM ET

Braves thrilled with Bourn as leadoff man

ATLANTA -- As this season approached, Braves players expressed excitement about the opportunity to spend a whole year with Michael Bourn at the top of their lineup. The offensive surge Bourn has produced over the past couple of weeks has validated this excitement.

"He's been solid," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said, before jokingly adding, "now if we could only get him to drive in some runs or to hit some home runs. Am I asking too much?"

After struggling through the season's first week, Bourn has been all that the Braves could expect. The veteran center fielder finished a 4-2 loss to the Phillies on Tuesday batting .330, with a .391 on-base percentage.

Bourn has batted .394 (30-for-76) with a .464 on-base percentage in 18 games since April 13. In addition, he has provided the speed element that has allowed him to lead the National League in stolen bases each of the past three seasons.

Bourn has been successful on seven of his first 10 stolen-base attempts. But he believes he has been victimized by three bad calls, with the latest coming in the first inning Monday against the Pirates, by veteran umpire Kerwin Danley. Replays showed Bourn clearly reached the second-base bag before the tag was applied.

"I know when I'm safe and when I'm not," Bourn said. "If I'm out, I'm not going to argue about it. I'll take it. I'm out. It's as simple as that. But three of the calls this year, I've been safe."

Acquired from the Astros at last year's Trade Deadline, Bourn has needed just three months to match Matt Diaz for the most stolen bases (29) by a Braves player since Rafael Furcal departed after the 2005 season. Jason Heyward, who debuted at the start of the 2010 season, ranks second with 28 stolen bases.

Heyward looking at Thursday to make return

ATLANTA -- Jason Heyward returned to Turner Field before a 4-2 loss on Tuesday and was encouraged that his sore right oblique muscle was feeling better than it had the day before. But the 22-year-old right fielder believes the Braves' medical staff will keep him out of the lineup until at least Thursday afternoon's series finale against the Phillies.

"I feel a lot better today, but I'm still not allowed to do anything," said Heyward, who did not appear in the series opener. "I still have a lot of soreness and tenderness. But it feels a lot better pain-wise."

Heyward does not remember suffering the injury while playing the entirety of Sunday's game against the Pirates. But he felt soreness in his right side when he awoke on Monday morning.

Because he was not cleared to participate in Tuesday's batting practice, Heyward is not expecting to be in Wednesday's lineup. But he understands the need to be cautious and guard against aggravating the injury, which could sideline him for a month.

Eric Hinske recorded his first four-hit game since 2004 while filling Heyward's void in right field on Monday night. With the Phillies starting left-hander Cole Hamels on Tuesday night, the Braves utilized Matt Diaz in right field. Diaz went 1-for-2 with a pair of walks and a nice catch in right field.

Fredi happy with Minor's effort in tough outing

ATLANTA -- Mike Minor struggled to command both his fastball and secondary pitches on the way to surrendering a career-high seven runs in 6 1/3 innings against the Pirates on Monday night. But Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez still opted to send the young left-hander back to the mound to start the seventh inning with a three-run deficit and his pitch count at 99.

"He competed," Gonzalez said, before explaining that he and pitching coach Roger McDowell wanted to see if Minor could gain some confidence by ending his rocky outing with a strong inning.

Minor was also due to bat third in the bottom of the seventh, but after issuing a leadoff walk and recording an out on a bunt, he saw his 107-pitch evening come to a close. The 24-year-old southpaw did not throw more than 100 pitches in any of his 15 big league starts last year.

But he has surpassed the century mark in three of his first five starts this year and threw a career-high 117 pitches against the D-backs on April 19.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.