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Braves' star OFs may come off IL for stretch run

Markakis' return imminent; Inciarte ahead of schedule
@mlbbowman
September 7, 2019

ATLANTA -- Nick Markakis could be activated within the next week, and Ender Inciarte remains hopeful he’ll return before the end of the regular season. If all goes right, the Braves will have their regular outfield back by the time the postseason begins. “Those were big losses in both of

ATLANTA -- Nick Markakis could be activated within the next week, and Ender Inciarte remains hopeful he’ll return before the end of the regular season. If all goes right, the Braves will have their regular outfield back by the time the postseason begins.

“Those were big losses in both of those spots,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “We’ve covered it very well.”

Markakis has been sidelined with a fractured left wrist since July 26, and Inciarte has been out since straining his right hamstring on Aug. 16. Still, the Braves entered Saturday with a nine-game lead in the National League East.

But while the Braves will continue to count on Matt Joyce, Rafael Ortega, Billy Hamilton and other backups who have helped fill these voids, they recognize how much better they could be with Markakis in their lineup and Inciarte providing Gold Glove Award-caliber defense in center field.

Markakis has not experienced any problems as he has spent this past week hitting and throwing. The Braves plan to give the 35-year-old outfielder a chance to see live pitching while batting against some of the organization’s pitchers in simulated situations during a four-game series that begins Monday in Philadelphia.

“Nick is doing [really] well,” Snitker said. “He’s taking batting practice and doing everything. Hopefully, we’ll get him in some sim games in Philadelphia and see where we’re at.”

Barring any setbacks, the Braves could activate Markakis during next weekend’s series at Nationals Park. Snitker is looking forward to once again filling the fifth spot of his lineup with Markakis, whose presence will help recreate some of the lineup length that has been lost while he, Inciarte and Austin Riley have missed significant time since the start of August.

“If he feels good, his presence will be immediately felt in our lineup,” Snitker said.

When Inciarte suffered a Grade 2 hamstring strain, the assumption was he would miss the rest of the regular season. But as he’s spent the past week taking swings and running with approximately 60 percent effort, he has at least improved the odds he could be available before the postseason begins.

“I’m pretty positive I’ll [return during the regular season],” Inciarte said. “I don’t want to say it will happen that way. God is in control. Hopefully, I’ll come back when it’s best for me and for the team.”

Childhood cancer awareness
Players, coaches and umpires wore gold-ribbon decals and wristbands on Saturday to observe MLB’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Day. The Braves hosted pediatric cancer survivors and fighters for a pregame party that was staged across from SunTrust Park at the Coca-Cola Roxy Theater.

Each of these survivors and fighters received two complimentary tickets to Saturday night’s game against the Nationals and a commemorative T-shirt. The families participated in a pregame parade, and 40 survivors stood alongside the players during the national anthem.

The Braves will donate the proceeds from Saturday’s 50/50 raffle to childhood cancer research. Earlier this week, the team donated baseball-themed Starlight gowns to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.