9/27/2013 11:15 P.M. ET
R. Johnson makes first start since late July
By Eric Single / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- Reed Johnson found himself in the starting lineup for the first time in over two months on Friday night, and as baseball irony would have it, he had his left Achilles tested early when Jimmy Rollins ripped a fly ball to the edge of the warning track in the top of the first inning.
Johnson took off on a dead run to haul the ball in with an over-the-shoulder catch and showed no ill effects for the remainder of his night. The veteran utility outfielder shared the struggles of his teammates at the plate against Phillies ace Cliff Lee, going 0-for-3 with a strikeout, but he did accomplish the next significant step in his frustrating return to full strength from the left Achilles tendinitis he aggravated on July 28.
"It will be fine," Johnson said. "The test will be tomorrow. I'm not going to be starting tomorrow, so I'll be fine to pinch-hit and all of that stuff. So, we'll see how sure it will be tomorrow. I'm sure it won't be too bad. I'll ice it a few times and be ready to pinch-hit tomorrow."
Johnson entered Friday hitting 8-for-20 with a home run in his career against Lee, but whether he was able to reproduce Jason Heyward's five-hit night on Thursday was less important than simply building comfort at the plate and in the field. He was replaced by B.J. Upton in center field in the sixth inning after his third at-bat, having accomplished the goals set out for him in his first start since July 25.
"I was pleased with him getting three at-bats and running around a little bit," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "That is a big piece for us coming off the bench as a pinch-hitter."
Despite missing extended time, Johnson sits in a tie for fifth place for the most pinch-hits in the Majors this season. His 11-for-36 (.400) showing puts him just two hits behind leaders Kevin Frandsen and Steve Lombardozzi.
"He's going to be a big part sooner or later of a pinch-hit appearance," Gonzalez said before Friday's game. "Getting these three at-bats, getting him on the field and let him run around a little bit, I think it'll be good for him."
If the Braves determine Johnson needs a few more at-bats after the conclusion of the regular season this weekend, they can send him to the Braves' instructional league for a game or two to sharpen his approach for use in the playoffs.
Reliever Jordan Walden could also be bound for Florida after getting into a game this weekend. Walden threw a bullpen before Friday's game, but Gonzalez reiterated that the right-hander must show the Braves he has recovered enough from his nagging groin issues to contribute in a game situation before his spot on the postseason roster is secured.
"Maybe even an inning here and then an inning in Orlando for him to feel comfortable and for us to feel comfortable that we can use him and him be OK," Gonzalez said. "I think that's the right thing to do."
McCann likely to rest until Game 1 of NLDS
ATLANTA -- The Braves have no intention of rushing Brian McCann back into the starting lineup before the start of the National League Division Series next Thursday after the veteran catcher exited Thursday's game in the second inning with tightness near his right groin muscle.
"I don't think he's going to forget how to hit or catch in seven days," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "And that's a nice thing to have, too, where you have seven days of treatment and seven days of settling down. Maybe we pinch-hit him if he feels good to pinch-hit on Sunday or something, just to get an at-bat, we'll do that."
McCann felt the area tighten while he was warming up starter David Hale in the bullpen before Thursday night's game and struck out in his only plate appearance before notifying Gonzalez of the issue.
"[Braves trainer Jeff Porter] explained to me that when injuries happen where he did it in the bullpen, he tweaked it a little bit, those are not as severe as if you would've done it in a game where it doesn't become more severe," Gonzalez said. "So, we feel like we dodged a bullet there, and Mac being heads-up and communicating to us that this happened and to take him out of a game, we feel like we dodged a bullet. I don't know if we can get him in a game before Thursday, but that's OK."
Clemente Jr. visits Turner Field
ATLANTA -- Roberto Clemente Jr., the son of Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente, took in batting practice before Friday night's game at Turner Field, getting the chance to speak with Braves and Phillies players and promote his family's upcoming book about the life of his father.
Though Clemente Jr. worked with his mother and brothers to compile memories and photographs for "Clemente: The True Legacy of an Undying Hero," he continues to learn about the passion and motivation of his father, the Pittsburgh Pirates great who was lost on New Year's Eve 1972 when the plane he had boarded in Puerto Rico loaded with supplies for an earthquake-stricken Nicaragua, crashed into the Atlantic Ocean.
The day before visiting Turner Field, Clemente Jr. was informed of new context behind the voyage that led to his father's death. While visiting a company that had recently donated over 400 backpacks for Back to School to his family's charity, Clemente was introduced to the CEO, whose father was the head of the militia that Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza deployed to stop planes from delivering aid from other countries at the time of Clemente's humanitarian work. The restrictions had compelled Roberto Clemente to board that fateful plane to Nicaragua in order to settle the matter himself.
"When he started telling me that Somoza had his father take over the whole militia, now it made a lot of sense to me," Clemente Jr. recalled. "He was the one that Dad was saying, 'I want to go through this guy, because I need to get to the hospital where I've been sending all this aid and not getting it to there.' So, that was the reason why he got on the plane. If it wasn't for his father, my dad would have never gotten on the plane."
Clemente Jr. also had high praise for Braves right-hander Tim Hudson, who has been selected as the Braves' Roberto Clemente Award nominee for the seventh time in the past eight years and the 11th time in his career.
"I think that he is an example for a lot of the players that are coming in young to understand the power of what you can do as a baseball player," Clemente Jr. said of Hudson. "He has won the award here so many times locally, I wish him luck this year, because if he can win it nationally, I believe that Tim Hudson's Family Foundation is doing a magnificent job, and he's utilizing baseball as a vehicle to do well, and that's something that we're very proud of as a family."
Since beginning the Hudson Family Foundation in 2009, Tim and his wife, Kim, have raised around $1 million to benefit children in Georgia and Alabama who have a genuine need for assistance. The Hudsons have also been involved with the Make-A-Wish Foundation dating back to 2000, as well as Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, the Moyer Foundation's Camp Erin -- a bereavement camp designed for children ages 6-17 who have experienced the death of a loved one -- and Team Colin, a community of individuals seeking to raise awareness about cystic fibrosis and the unique challenges families with cystic fibrosis patients face.
Voting for the Clemente Award runs from Sept. 17 through Oct. 6 at chevybaseball.com as fans help decide which of those 30 club winners will receive this prestigious recognition. The nominees were chosen based on their dedication to giving back to the community, as well as their outstanding ability on the field.
Braves Foundation awards $175,000 to local nonprofits
ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Braves Foundation awarded grants totaling $175,000 to several local nonprofit organizations before Tuesday's game against the Brewers.
The 31 organizations that were recognized before the game will fund initiatives including after-school programs, health and wellness efforts, anti-bullying campaigns, educational projects and athletic programs.
"The nonprofit organizations throughout Braves Country serve every resident and play a substantial role in the betterment of our community," team president John Schuerholz said in a statement. "We feel incredible pride in providing assistance to these well-deserving organizations and look forward to seeing the lives in our community transformed."
Country singer Scotty McCreery, winner of the 10th season of American Idol, made a charitable contribution of his own after performing at Turner Field following Friday night's game against the Phillies to cap off his six-city MLB ballpark tour. McCreery donated $5,000 to the Braves' local Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program during a special on-field presentation.
Eric Single is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.