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K. Johnson headed to DL with oblique strain

Braves outfielder exits during first at-bat Wednesday; Cunningham to be called up
MLB.com @mlbbowman

CINCINNATI -- While rejuvenating his career over the past few weeks, Kelly Johnson has served as one of the Braves' top offensive threats. Thus, there was certainly reason for him to be frustrated when he exited Wednesday night's 5-1 loss to the Reds with a right oblique strain that will sideline him for at least the next two weeks.

"It stinks when you're feeling good and something like that happens," Johnson said. "It's just the way it is. It's baseball."

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CINCINNATI -- While rejuvenating his career over the past few weeks, Kelly Johnson has served as one of the Braves' top offensive threats. Thus, there was certainly reason for him to be frustrated when he exited Wednesday night's 5-1 loss to the Reds with a right oblique strain that will sideline him for at least the next two weeks.

"It stinks when you're feeling good and something like that happens," Johnson said. "It's just the way it is. It's baseball."

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Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said Johnson will be placed on the 15-day disabled list and outfielder Todd Cunningham will be recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett. While Cunningham -- ranked by MLB.com as the Braves' No. 27 prospect -- has the capability to provide solid defense at each outfield spot, he will certainly not be a candidate to replace Johnson in the cleanup spot.

Video: ATL@CIN: K. Johnson on going on the disabled list

While Johnson is not a prototypical cleanup hitter, he had at least made himself into one of the most attractive options in Atlanta's lineup. The 33-year-old outfielder entered Wednesday having hit .298 with four home runs in his previous 14 games.

"[Johnson] is a guy who can hit behind [Freddie] Freeman in the lineup and at least give opposing managers some thought about putting Freeman on or pitching around him," Gonzalez said. "We'll figure out who will hit behind Freeman."

Veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski appears to be the most likely candidate to fill the cleanup spot on the days that he is in the lineup. Cunningham seems to be a better candidate than Eric Young Jr. to fill the platoon role that Johnson had been sharing with Jonny Gomes in left field.

Video: ATL@PHI: Cunningham lays out for the great catch

Cunningham has batted .291 with a .362 on-base percentage and .359 slugging percentage through his first 29 games with Gwinnett. The 26-year-old outfielder has recorded a pair of hits in eight career at-bats at the Major League level.

When Johnson felt some discomfort in his right side during his last round of batting practice on Wednesday, he initially thought it was just minor pain that would go away. But his optimism dissipated when he swung at the first pitch he saw from Raisel Iglesias during the first inning.

After gingerly circling the plate, he took one more awkward swing and then made his way toward the clubhouse after being briefly examined by Braves trainer Jeff Porter. Gomes entered and served as Atlanta's left fielder for the remainder of the game.

"I've had it in the past where you just deal with it and it goes away and it's not a big deal," Johnson said. "But after swinging at that first pitch, I kind of knew something was not quite right."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. Listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Atlanta Braves, Kelly Johnson