7/19/2013 8:52 P.M. ET
J. Upton back; Freeman, Heyward close to returning
By Brian Hedger / Special to MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Freddie Freeman's smiling face on Friday afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field was exactly what Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez hoped to see before a game against the White Sox to start the remainder of the regular season.
Freeman, who jammed his thumb in a game against the Reds just before the All-Star break and couldn't play in the All-Star Game, took his first swings since getting hurt. He didn't start the game, but did run through some pregame swing drills and took batting practice -- the results of which will likely determine whether he'll be in the lineup on Saturday afternoon.
"Freddie Freeman just came out of the batting cage and had a big smile on his face," Gonzalez said before the game. "This was the first time he's swung the bat since the injury on Saturday, so he's going to take some [batting practice) and hopefully he'll be ready to go [Saturday] afternoon."
Joey Terdoslavich took Freeman's place at first base on Friday night, with Evan Gattis getting the start at designated hitter. The Braves also got good news about star right fielder Justin Upton, who sprained his left calf last Friday against the Reds while running out a ground ball to shortstop. Upton returned to the lineup against Chicago and said he feels good.
Similar to Freeman and Jason Heyward -- who also strained his right hamstring last week against the Reds -- getting last weekend off plus the four days during the break was enough time off to help speed up the recovery process.
"Those days of rest, coincidentally, were coming up right after [Sunday's game] and I had a good amount of time to rest," Upton said. "I ran yesterday back at home and I felt good, so I feel like I'm ready to go. I was starting to get some hits and we had a little break, but the rest was needed. We're ready for this second half and personally I think I'm ready, too."
Heyward said he's also making progress thanks to the added days off for the All-Star festivities. He didn't start on Friday, replaced by Jose Costanza in left, but Heyward didn't rule out a return this weekend against the White Sox.
"This is the best I've felt [since getting hurt]," he said, before going through running exercises and batting practice for a second straight day. "I ran [Thursday] and I felt it a little bit. That's enough to say, 'OK, not just yet,' but it's been getting better every day, improving. [I've] got to be smart about it, but I'm really close. Every day it feels better once I get to the field and get loose. It feels that much better, so soon … real soon."
The Braves did lose center fielder B.J. Upton for an extended time last weekend when he landed on the 15-day disabled list with a right adductor muscle strain, but overall they have to feel somewhat fortunate the rash of injuries happened before the scheduled time off.
"If there is anything [such as] having injuries at a [good] time, I think the All-Star break was about as good as you could plan," Gonzalez said. "We didn't plan it, but it was as good of a break as you can get, a lucky break."
McCann doesn't play, but relishes All-Star experience
CHICAGO -- Brian McCann didn't get into the All-Star Game, but he'll certainly remember it for a long time.
McCann, who filled in for injured Braves teammate Freddie Freeman, said he enjoyed the entire experience -- from socializing with other players to being on the field when Mariano Rivera made his memorable entrance for the American League in the eighth inning.
"I think what makes those games is sitting in the clubhouse talking to the guys you play against every day," McCann said. "[Rivera's entrance was] just another moment that I'll never forget. I think in 20 years I'll look back and when they play that moment over and over, it'll be more special than it is right now, just because his legend will grow. He's by far the best closer of all time and people put him up there as one of the best pitchers to ever pitch, so it was definitely a cool moment."
McCann started to get hot in weeks leading up to the break, hitting .410 with five home runs, six doubles and 15 RBIs in his previous 16 games. He doesn't sound concerned about the break cooling him off.
"We had a workout [in Chicago on Thursday] and I feel as good as I did before," he said. "I'm excited about this second half."
Beachy, Wood give Braves rotation options
CHICAGO -- Heading into the second half of the regular-season slate, the Braves have options with their pitching staff, ranging from the Majors down to the Minor Leagues.
Brandon Beachy was slated to make another rehab start on Friday night for Triple-A Gwinnett against Indianapolis, his third since being shut down for a few weeks in June in a bid to return from Tommy John surgery last year. A day earlier, Alex Wood started for Gwinnett and picked up a win in his first start at the Triple-A level, going five innings and allowing just one run on three hits.
After getting into 16 games as a reliever and making one start for the Braves, Wood was sent back to the Minors to get stretched out in case he's needed as a starter down the stretch. There's been speculation that Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez might opt to slide the 22-year old Wood into the rotation and move Kris Medlen back into the bullpen -- or do the same thing when Beachy is deemed ready to return. At this point, Gonzalez said he just likes having those options.
"You think you've got too many starters and the next thing you know, three days later, you're looking for more pitching," Gonzalez said. "I think at this time of year, having guys like [Wood] and Beachy gives you a lot of depth."
Gonzalez said there is no timetable for Beachy's eventual return and they're evaluating his status on a start-to-start basis. Gonzalez also bumped Julio Teheran up a start, one ahead of Medlen, at the back of the rotation for the start of the second half.
"Just trying to give some guys some extra time," Gonzalez said. "This time of year, everybody that can will get a couple extra days and [pitching coach] Roger [McDowell] and I felt like we needed to give some of those guys a couple days of rest."
• Reserve outfielder Jordan Schafer has about three weeks left in his estimated six-week recovery from a stress fracture near his ankle, but he's with the Braves in Chicago this weekend.
After the Braves leave for New York to play the Mets, Schafer will head back to Atlanta to meet with a doctor for another exam. Gonzalez said Schafer can play catch, hit off a tee and do hitting drills, but cannot take live batting practice or run.
Brian Hedger is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.