The Braves activated outfielder Jason Heyward from the disabled list on Thursday, a day earlier than was previously expected. He is starting in right field against the Dodgers.
Heyward had been expected to play in one final minor league rehab game Thursday before a final checkup and activation on Friday. The need to place Walden on the disabled list evidently moved that timeframe up.
Heyward, 23, played in five rehab games for Triple-A Gwinnett, collecting six hits in 20 at bats. He had not been hitting well prior to his surgery. In 17 games for the Braves, he had just a .261 OBP and .259 SLG. Heyward set career highs in 2012 with 27 home runs and 21 stolen bases and should bounce back from his poor start.
Walden was acquired from the Los Angeles Angels in an offseason trade that saw Tommy Hanson go to L.A. In 14 games, he has a 4.85 ERA. With Jonny Venters out for the season with Tommy John surgery, a very strong Atlanta bullpen is suddenly looking quite a bit weaker.
It appears that hot-hitting rookie Evan Gattis will remain with the team as a bench bat. With Brian McCann's return earlier this season, the team moved Gattis to left field and Justin Upton to right field. Neither Heyward nor B.J. Upton have hit very well this year, but they are both mainstays in the outfield and Justin Upton is on pace for an MVP season. That leaves Gattis without a position. The Braves could demote him to Triple-A for consistent at-bats if they decide they need another bullpen arm.