7/30/2013 11:37 P.M. ET
B.J. Upton, Schafer nearing return from disabled list
By Mark Bowman and Eric Single / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- When Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez began addressing media members on Tuesday afternoon, he addressed the decision to place Reed Johnson on the disabled list late Thursday night.
But when given the chance, Gonzalez quickly turned the discussion toward the good news surrounding his injury-riddled outfield.
While Johnson will be sidelined for at least the next two weeks with tendinitis in his right Achilles, B.J. Upton and Jordan Schafer are moving closer to being activated from the disabled list.
Upton, who has been sidelined since June 12 with a strained right adductor muscle, will begin a Minor League rehab stint with Triple-A Gwinnett on Wednesday. He is scheduled to play at least three games and could be activated as early as Saturday.
Schafer, who has been sidelined since July 3 with a stress fracture in his right foot, could begin his rehab stint with Gwinnett on Saturday. If he continued to make progress, he could rejoin Atlanta's 25-man roster at some point next week.
"The major league outfield is getting ready to go play in Gwinnett, and the Gwinnett outfield is playing here in the big leagues," Gonzalez said.
When the Braves placed Johnson on the disabled list, their corresponding move was to purchase the contract of Todd Cunningham, who joins Joey Terdoslavich and Jose Constanza as the three Gwinnett outfielders who have been promoted to Atlanta dating back to July 4.
As he prepared for Tuesday night's game against the Rockies, Gonzalez was waiting to learn the results of the MRI exam performed on Johnson, who was forced to exit Sunday night's win over the Cardinals after he ran through the first-base bag to complete a single in the eighth inning.
Johnson experienced discomfort in his right Achilles tendon two previous times this year and needed just a couple days of rest. But when he arrived at Turner Field on Monday, the veteran outfielder informed the Braves that he was experiencing more pain than he had in the past.
"I think after we get more tests done, the MRI and that kind of stuff, we'll know more," Gonzalez said. "But fingers crossed that it's only a two-week thing."
Downs makes quite a first impression on Braves
ATLANTA -- Evan Gattis had never been in a meeting at the mound quite like the one brought on by reliever Scott Downs' entrance into Monday night's victory over the Rockies.
With two outs and the bases loaded in a tie game in the ninth inning, the Braves' new left-handed specialist, acquired in trade with the Angels earlier in the day, was called upon to face Todd Helton.
But before Downs threw a pitch, he had to introduce himself to his infielders and catcher, who had been otherwise occupied when the 12-year veteran arrived at Turner Field roughly 10 minutes after the game's first pitch.
"It was like, 'Hey, how are you doing? Uh ... what do you throw? I've seen you on TV for like four pitches, and that's about it,'" Gattis said.
According to Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, Downs broke the tension with a cheery greeting to his teammates and set out to work. Those types of pleasantries may be common in dugouts around the league during Trade Deadline season, but in the pivotal moment of a tie ballgame, the levity was a little less expected.
"I take my job seriously, but I like to have fun at the same time," Downs said. "I'd never met [Gattis], never talked to him, so it was just kind of like, 'Hey, how you doing?' We kind of broke the ice a little bit and had a little chuckle, and then it was back to the game."
To answer Gattis' question, Downs threw mosty sinkers -- 10 out of his 13 pitches over 1 1/3 scoreless innings that helped put the offense in position for a 9-8 walk-off win in the 10th.
"I think Scott knew exactly what he wanted to do, and probably Gattis just let him do that," Gonzalez said. "God, I hope he knew exactly what he wanted to do, the guy's got a lot of innings and a lot of appearances. He better know what he wants to do."
After learning he had been traded by the Angels on Monday afternoon, Downs left Arlington, Texas, and hopped a plane to Atlanta. He plans to have his parents come down for a game once he gets settled in, whenever that may be, given the frantic schedule of the playoff hunt. Meanwhile, Downs expected his wife and three children to travel to Atlanta for the next homestand.
"We were in a hotel in Texas, and then I'm in a hotel here," Downs said. "So it still kind of feels like a road game. But once I got to the field [Tuesday], I was a little more comfortable. I was able to sit down and talk to some guys and kind of get into a routine."
As he has made his way around the Braves' clubhouse, Downs has found a few former teammates among the fresh faces. He played with reliever Luis Ayala in Montreal, with outfielder Reed Johnson in Toronto and with reliever Jordan Walden in Anaheim. Downs also worked out with fellow Louisville native Dan Uggla a handful of times this past offseason.
"Everybody's kind of laughing and joking in a bases-loaded situation, and that's the way it has to be in the clubhouse," Downs said of his introduction to the Braves. "You have to be relaxed, and you have to play the game as it is, and whatever happens, happens. You're still going to have fun doing it."
Downs wasted little time endearing himself to the crowd at Turner Field on Monday, snagging Helton's line drive back to the mound on the first pitch he threw and walking off the field to a standing ovation. He will expected to be replicate the feat many more times down the stretch.
"One pitch, one out, it was the best-case scenario, you know?" Gattis said. "He was definitely loose, and it was cool."
Cunningham singles in first Major League at-bat
ATLANTA -- Braves outfielder Todd Cunningham took full advantage of his first chance to get into a Major League game on Tuesday night, pinch-hitting for starter Alex Wood in the seventh inning and lining a single into left field off lefty Jeff Francis for his first big league hit in his first at-bat.
"They have all the advance scouting reports and stuff in the dugout, so I kind of read over it," Cunningham said after the Braves' 11-3 victory. "So I knew [Francis] featured the fastball away, threw his changeup a lot and then had that slow curveball. I was just looking fastball away, got the changeup and kind of hooked it in the hole."
Cunningham later scored his first career run in the inning, then remained in the game to play left field and was greeted with raucous cheers from the outfield pavilion as he ran to his position to start of the eighth.
"He's one of those guys who is a solid baseball player who the more you watch, the more you appreciate," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
After Cunningham and some of his Triple-A Gwinnett teammates returned to the Atlanta area on Monday night, they went to Lake Lanier to spend time at David Hale's father's house.
As they were hanging out on the dock around midnight, Cunningham received a call from Gwinnett manager Randy Ready. Knowing the Trade Deadline was just two days away, he feared the worst as he walked away from the group to talk to Ready.
When Cunningham returned wearing a bright grin, his Gwinnett teammates immediately knew that Ready had called to inform Cunningham that he had been promoted to the Major League level.
"They knew something was up because I took the call and kind of walked off," Cunningham said. "So it was kind of that awkward silence when I re-approached the group. It was kind of like, 'What side of the news was it?' There were lots of hugs and celebration. So it was a fun time."
When the Braves placed Reed Johnson on the disabled list on Monday, they opted to promote Cunningham, who has hit .279 with 18 stolen bases and a .709 OPS in 99 games with Gwinnett. He is capable of playing each of the three outfield positions.
• Gerald Laird was strong enough to return to Turner Field on Tuesday afternoon. But the veteran backup catcher was still feeling some discomfort and anxiety as he spent a fourth consecutive day attempting to pass a kidney stone.
With Brian McCann and Evan Gattis available to handle the catching duties, the Braves have had the luxury of allowing Laird to get through this extremely painful experience without having to place him on the disabled list.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. Eric Single is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.