Center fielder Nate McLouth stayed off the disabled list and in the Braves’ opening day lineup after passing tests Sunday to convince trainers – and manager Bobby Cox – that he and his hamstring were ready.
“He feels he can go,” Cox said of McLouth, who was slowed Friday and Saturday by a sore right hamstring. “Range of motion was good, everything was good. He did everything. He’s fine.”
Cox added, “And if he’s not, we’ll go to Plan B tomorrow.”
McLouth slumped badly during spring training and has dropped from the leadoff spot to eighth in the order for opening day Monday against the Chicago Cubs and pitcher Carlos Zambrano.
Melky Cabrera will start in left field and bat leadoff in the opener, and would move to center field if McLouth has any problems with his hamstring.
Matt Diaz isn’t in the lineup, but Cox told his players that all four primary outfielders – McLouth, Cabrera, Diaz and rookie right fielder Jason Heyward – would play plenty this season.
Diaz is expected to get plenty of starts in left field against left-handed pitchers and probably some right-handers, too.
McLouth was relieved to avoid the DL to start a season he believes is full of promise for the Braves.
“It’s good feeling to know that we have the type of team that we feel like can contend right from the beginning,” he said. “We’re in a tough division, but we’re part of what makes it tough, and we think we have a good shot to compete in the division and ultimately compete for a playoff spot.”
Kawakami pitches in minor league game
With his regular-season debut still a week away, Kenshin Kawakami was sent to pitch in a minor league game Sunday.
The Japanese right-hander pitched four strong innings for Class AAA Gwinnett in an intrasquad game, allowing four hits, one run and no walks with five strikeouts. He threw 58 pitches.
Kawakami is scheduled to start next Sunday at San Francisco in the sixth game of the season. Opening-day starter Derek Lowe is set to pitch again in Game 5 and will be on regular rest because of an off day in the schedule Tuesday.
Jair Jurrjens will pitch Wednesday against the Cubs, followed by Tommy Hanson on Thursday and Tim Hudson in the series opener Friday against the Giants.