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Markakis' live BP 'checked all the boxes'

@paul_casella
September 11, 2019

PHILADELPHIA -- Braves manager Brian Snitker said it looked as if Nick Markakis "hadn't missed a beat" after the outfielder took live batting practice prior to Wednesday's game against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Markakis went through a normal batting practice session, then took a handful of simulated at-bats

PHILADELPHIA -- Braves manager Brian Snitker said it looked as if Nick Markakis "hadn't missed a beat" after the outfielder took live batting practice prior to Wednesday's game against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

Markakis went through a normal batting practice session, then took a handful of simulated at-bats against Minor League pitcher Connor Johnstone. Markakis scattered line drives to all fields as Snitker and the training staff looked on from behind the cage.

"I thought it was good. Checked all the boxes," Snitker said. "He accomplished everything we wanted to today. Threw from the outfield, took a lot of swings off a pitcher. … Did a great job turning the ball loose. It was good."

Markakis, who has been sidelined since July 27 with a fractured left wrist, will go through a similar routine Thursday, though the training staff also wants to see the outfielder run the bases and slide before he's forced to do so in a game situation. Assuming all goes well again on Thursday, the club will re-evaluate Markakis' status and could activate him as soon as Friday's series opener against the Nationals in Washington.

"I feel great. Under the circumstances, I didn’t think I’d be in this position right now as quickly as I am," Markakis said. "... You’re always a little nervous the first time you do anything, especially against live pitching -- today was my first time. It went better than I expected. No soreness, didn’t feel any discomfort on any of the swings. … Just feeling good right now and continue the progress."

Markakis has been doing three to four hours of rehab each day, not including his throwing, hitting and strength training. This is only the second career injured list stint for Markakis, who had missed only 11 games since joining the Braves in 2015 prior to this stretch.

"It’s a longer process than you want to be part of," Markakis said, "but it’s also the right process to get you back on the field."

Friday marks exactly seven weeks since Markakis sustained the injury, when he was hit by a 91 mph pitch in Philadelphia. He was given an initial timetable of six to eight weeks just to make a full recovery, seemingly putting his season in jeopardy. Instead, Markakis' looming return could give him approximately two weeks of regular season action to get back up to speed before a possible postseason run.

"It’s big," Markakis said of those potential tune-up games. "When I first broke it, they told me six to eight weeks. Those six to eight weeks are for recovery, and then you’ve got to get your body back and everything, so it potentially plays out longer than that. So to be in the situation that I’m in right now, I tip my hat to the guys who have been busting their butts to try to get me back on this field. It’s looking good so far."

Though Markakis appears poised to beat that initial timetable, Freddie Freeman jokingly pointed out that he returned from the same injury in "six weeks and six days" in 2017. Kidding aside, Freeman said Markakis' presence alone provides a lift in the clubhouse and added that the outfielder "makes our lineup so much deeper."

"We’re still winning with pieces that are key to our team and key to our success that haven’t been in our lineup for a while," Freeman said. "So when you can get Nick back, that’s just going to make us that much better."

The Braves were 61-43 and held a 5 1/2-game lead in the National League East when Markakis landed on the injured list on July 27. Entering Wednesday, Atlanta had gone 29-13 since that date and extended its division lead to 9 1/2 games.

"It makes watching the game from afar a lot better," Markakis said. "You’re happy for these guys. These guys bust their butts every day."

Braves, MLB honor 9/11 victims

The Braves took the field at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday night wearing caps with 9/11 ribbon patches on the side, part of a Major League-wide tribute to the victims and families impacted by the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001.

Players, coaches and umpires across the Majors wore the unique hats on the 18-year anniversary of the attacks. MLB will donate 100% of the royalties from the sales of those New Era caps to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York, the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa., and the Pentagon Memorial Fund.

The Braves also stood outside the visiting dugout for a pregame ceremony that featured members of the Philadelphia Police Department and Philadelphia Fire Department, along with members of the United States Military, all of whom lined up on the outfield grass alongside each of the 50 state flags. The tribute included a moment of silence followed by renditions of "America the Beautiful" and the national anthem.

Both teams also used special “We Shall Not Forget” lineup cards and base jewels for the game.

Paul Casella is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter @paul_casella.