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Markakis ready for live BP, could return Friday

@paul_casella
September 9, 2019

PHILADELPHIA -- Braves outfielder Nick Markakis is expected to take live batting practice Wednesday in Philadelphia and could return as soon as Friday against the Nationals, according to Atlanta manager Brian Snitker. "We’re going to bring a pitcher in to throw to him, where he’ll face some velocity," Snitker said.

PHILADELPHIA -- Braves outfielder Nick Markakis is expected to take live batting practice Wednesday in Philadelphia and could return as soon as Friday against the Nationals, according to Atlanta manager Brian Snitker.

"We’re going to bring a pitcher in to throw to him, where he’ll face some velocity," Snitker said. "I don’t know if you call it a sim game or live batting practice -- it’s just more facing a real pitcher and getting some live at-bats."

Markakis was given an initial timetable of six to eight weeks after fracturing his left wrist when he was hit by a 91 mph fastball on July 26 during Atlanta's last trip to Philadelphia. Friday will mark exactly seven weeks since he sustained the injury.

Snitker said that he won't be looking for anything in particular from Markakis when he swings the bat Wednesday. Instead, the skipper will rely on the training staff and Markakis -- a player who had missed only 11 games since joining the Braves in 2015 prior to this injured list stint -- to dictate when the 35-year-old is ready to return.

"Just for him to tell me he’s ready. I don’t need to see anything really," Snitker said. "We’ll give him a good workout, have him throw and run the bases. They want him to slide, just to see with his hand. But I trust him. If he feels like he’s ready to go, I’ll plug him in."

A number of players have stepped up in Markakis' absence, helping the club go a National League-best 28-12 since placing the outfielder on the injured list on July 27. Only the Astros (28-11) had a better mark across the Majors entering Monday. The Braves averaged 5.6 runs per game (third in the NL) since the injury and their lead in the NL East actually grew from 5 1/2 games to nine.

Still, Atlanta knows that the 14-year big league veteran could be a difference-maker down the stretch. While the Braves entered Monday having won 17 of their last 20 games, Freddie Freeman said Markakis' impending return is the biggest factor in what could help this year's team notch the organization's first postseason series win since 2001.

"The fact that we still have one guy waiting in the wings that I think everybody loves on this team in Nick Markakis -- hopefully we get him some sim at-bats here and get him back in the lineup, because that just makes our lineup so much deeper," Freeman said. "You push everyone down another spot in the order. Having [Brian McCann] hit fifth or sixth is really, really good -- but having B-Mac hit seventh is great."

Not only does Markakis provide consistency in the lineup -- he played in each of the first 104 games in 2019 after appearing in all 162 contests last year -- but he's also a three-time Gold Glove Award winner. Offensively, he has a .292/.363/.436 hitting line since the start of last season, one in which he earned his first All-Star nod and a Silver Slugger Award.

Markakis hit out of the No. 5 spot in all but six of his starts before landing on the IL. He also hit cleanup four times and started one game apiece hitting leadoff and batting third.

"It’ll be good to get him back, just the stability that he brings," Snitker said. "He feels great. The people that are with him have said if you didn’t know he was rehabbing anything, you wouldn’t know [he was hurt] just watching his workouts and what he’s doing."

Inciarte stays back for rehab

Outfielder Ender Inciarte remained in Atlanta as he continues his attempt to work his way back from a Grade 2 right hamstring strain this week. Inciarte will face live pitching and has been running over the past week, though he's yet to ramp up the effort level.

"It’s all still at a slow pace, as far as the jogging and everything. [He's] just accelerating his ascent back, really," Snitker said. "He’s doing good. He’s not ready yet, obviously, but he’ll continue to do his daily treatments and exercises and all that."

Paul Casella is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter @paul_casella.