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Walden could be ready to return Thursday

MIAMI -- As the Braves spend the next few weeks attempting to post the best bullpen ERA in franchise history, it appears they will have the luxury of utilizing a refreshed and healthy Jordan Walden.

Walden's groin did not provide any problems as he completed a pain-free, 27-pitch bullpen session on Tuesday afternoon at Marlins Park. Barring the development of soreness, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said Walden could be available to pitch again as early as Thursday afternoon's series finale against the Marlins.

When Walden returns, he could benefit from the fact that he has not placed much strain on his arm since straining his groin while running in St. Louis a little more than two weeks ago. The veteran right-handed setup man has experienced some right shoulder and back discomfort at different points dating back to the start of Spring Training.

"This is the best my arm has felt this late in the season my whole big league career," Walden said. "I'm just waiting to see what I can do on the mound."

While compiling a 2.47 ERA and limiting opponents to a .194 batting average in 47 appearances, Walden has proven to be the reliable reliever the Braves envisioned when the they acquired him from the Angels in exchange for Tommy Hanson in November.

Since Eric O'Flaherty suffered a season-ending elbow injury in the middle of May, Walden and Luis Avilan have proven to be capable setup men for closer Craig Kimbrel. Their success has significantly influenced the Major League-best bullpen ERA (2.33) the Braves carried into Tuesday.

The 2002 Braves posted what currently stands as the best bullpen ERA (2.60) in franchise history.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for
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