ATLANTA -- Ender Inciarte could return to the Braves' lineup in time to face his former D-backs teammates this weekend, and Gordon Beckham may not be far behind.
Inciarte will begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Gwinnett on Wednesday and could rejoin Atlanta's lineup for Saturday's game against the D-backs. Beckham will join Gwinnett on Saturday to begin a rehab assignment that could set him up to be activated from the disabled list for Tuesday's series opener against the Phillies.
"We feel pretty [confident] that we will see both of those guys back in uniform during this next homestand," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
Inciarte served as Atlanta's center fielder and leadoff hitter for just two games before he strained his left hamstring during his first plate appearance on April 8. Beckham has been sidelined since he strained his left hamstring during an April 16 game against the Marlins. Both players have spent the past week participating in extended spring training games in Florida.
Because Gwinnett is not scheduled to play on Thursday, the current plan is for Inciarte to play in Wednesday morning's game and again on Friday night. If all goes well, he should be back in Atlanta's lineup on Saturday, when the D-backs might send right-hander Shelby Miller to the mound.
The Braves acquired Inciarte, Friday night's starting pitcher Aaron Blair and Atlanta's No. 1 prospect Dansby Swanson from the D-backs in exchange for Miller in December.
When Inciarte returns, the Braves will need to determine whether to keep Mallex Smith at the big league level. Smith's .240 on-base percentage through his first 50 plate appearances didn't help his case, but the highly-regarded prospect recorded a pair of three-hit games over the weekend, giving the Braves reason to consider utilizing Smith, Inciarte and Nick Markakis as their regular outfield trio.
If Inciarte and Smith can consistently get on base and utilize their speed, the Braves may be able to compensate for the lack of power in their lineup.