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All goes normal for Graham in return to hill

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez sported a smile as he neared the mound to remove J.R. Graham during the sixth inning of Friday night's game against the Astros.

Instead of reacting to the fact Graham had just allowed three hits within a span of five batters, Gonzalez was simply happy to see that the highly regarded right-handed pitching prospect had returned to the mound for the first time since right shoulder soreness sidelined him in May.

"It felt great," Graham said. "There was nothing to hang my head about. I thought I made some good pitches out there and some not-so-good pitches. It's going to happen. It's the first time I've been out there in nine months. It was awesome to get back out there."

Pitching in a game for the first time since May 13, Graham surrendered a leadoff single and a pair of doubles. While he is not yet generating maximum effort, the hard-throwing right-hander threw at least one fastball that registered 95 mph.

"I hadn't seen a batter in almost nine or 10 months," Graham said. "I felt a little rusty out there. But I felt like my mound presence or anything hadn't changed. So I felt normal."

Graham is scheduled to pitch during Tuesday afternoon's game against the Nationals. While he will likely not break camp on the Major League roster, there is certainly a chance he finds a spot in Atlanta's bullpen at some point this season.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for
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