Notes: d'Arnaud's progress; lineup shuffle

July 22nd, 2021

PHILADELPHIA -- After sitting through a three-hour, three-minute rain delay at home on Wednesday that led to the Braves not arriving in Philadelphia until the early morning hours on Thursday, the club received some much-needed good news on the injury front later that afternoon.

joined Atlanta on its crucial nine-game road trip and went through various baseball activities prior to Thursday's series opener at Citizens Bank Park. Sidelined since May 2 due to torn ligaments in his left thumb, d'Arnaud worked out on the field, catching pitchers in the outfield and throwing.

Though it's certainly a step in the right direction, d'Arnaud still has some boxes to check off before he's ready to rejoin the Braves' lineup.

"He's going to need to take live BPs, and obviously, play some rehab games and all that kind of stuff," manager Brian Snitker said. "It's a good sign, I think, that he's accelerating his activity. But still, you're not going to rush something like this. They'll be able to tell when he is ready. It's just about the strength and repetitions, and seeing how his body handles all that again."

d'Arnaud wasn't the only one ramping back up on Thursday.

Right-hander Huascar Ynoa threw 30 pitches -- two sets of 15, with a rest in between -- of batting practice. He'll now progress to throwing in a rehab game on Tuesday, though the exact details of that appearance are not yet set.

Fellow righty Ian Anderson also took a big step on Thursday, playing catch without any issues. The club will see how his right shoulder responds on Friday, then determine the next steps in his rehab process.

"He said his shoulder felt really good," Snitker said. "So that was a really good thing."

There was also an update on Ronald Acuña Jr., who is sidelined for the remainder of the season. Acuña underwent surgery on Wednesday in Los Angeles -- performed by Dr. Neal S. ElAttrache -- to repair the ACL in his right knee.

Though that's a positive step in a lengthy rehab process for the 23-year-old superstar, the Braves are hoping that Thursday's developments will ultimately lead to key contributions from the aforementioned trio down the stretch.

"Everything's really good," Snitker said. "All good news; everything's going in the right direction."

Lineup shuffle
Snitker tried something new on Thursday, slotting Ozzie Albies into the No. 2 spot in the order, between leadoff hitter Joc Pederson and Freddie Freeman.

Dansby Swanson, who had hit second in each of the last five games (including Wednesday's suspended contest), moved down to the five-hole, behind cleanup hitter Austin Riley. Though Swanson was just 1-for-19 (.053) in those five games, Snitker said the move had more to do with getting Albies between the left-handed bats of Pederson and Freeman.

"If they're going to pop a left-hander on Joc, then [they] have to go through Ozzie to get to Freddie pretty much," Snitker said. "That's the biggest thing, is that they're going to utilize lefties in that spot."

Though Pederson has a higher OPS against lefties (.785 OPS) than righties (.708 OPS) in a small sample this season, he's historically struggled far more against southpaws (.610 career OPS) than right-handers (.835 OPS). Similarly, Freeman has a .783 career OPS against lefties, compared to a .942 OPS against righties.

The idea is to make teams think twice about plugging in a left-handed reliever in a key spot against those two, given Albies' success against southpaws. The 24-year-old has torched left-handed pitching in his young career, hitting .344 with a .958 OPS in 535 plate appearances (.251 average and .752 OPS vs. righties).

"We're just going to see how it looks, how it plays," Snitker said. "But just after living it a little bit, when we got Joc, and putting him up at the top of [lineup], if they want to bring a lefty in on Joc to get to Freddie, they've got to go through Ozzie -- kind of rough sledding there."