HOUSTON -- The Braves have benefited from the return of a healthy Jordan Walden. Their bullpen could soon receive yet another boost from the return of David Carpenter, who is currently on the disabled list with a strained right biceps muscle.
Carpenter is aiming to make the first of at least two rehab appearances on Saturday night for Triple-A Gwinnett. The right-handed reliever will not be eligible for activation before July 2.
When Carpenter produced a 2.42 ERA through his first 24 appearances this season, he at least resembled what he was last year, when he posted a 1.78 ERA in 56 appearances. But he allowed opponents to produce a .622 on-base percentage as he posted an 11.81 ERA in the final 10 appearances he made before going on the disabled list.
Carpenter has repeatedly said his biceps ailment had nothing to do with the disappointing results he began garnering in late May. In fairness, he was a victim of some bad luck. Opponents compiled a .750 batting average on balls in play during those 10 appearances.
"I didn't really want this much rest," Carpenter said. "But maybe it's a blessing in disguise and gets everything back to where it needs to be and get back to what I know I can do."
Freeman OK after getting elbow hit by pitch
HOUSTON -- Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman breathed a sigh of relief once he learned he did not sustain a significant injury when he was hit just above the right elbow with a pitch in the eighth inning of Wednesday night's 4-0 win over the Astros.
Now, Freeman is hoping to be able to maintain his status as one of only three National League players who have started each of their team's games this season.
"Everything was smooth and the doctors have already seen me and everything is good," Freeman said. "Hopefully, it's not too swollen and too sore tomorrow to go. I'm going to try everything I can to play."
Approximately 30 minutes earlier, Freeman gained some reason to be concerned when his right hand and forearm felt tingly after he got hit just above the elbow with Darin Downs' 90-mph fastball. Freeman took a few steps toward first base before abruptly stopping. He was met moments later by Braves head athletic trainer Jeff Porter, who briefly examined the first baseman before taking him toward the clubhouse for further evaluation.
Freeman's ailment was not significant enough to warrant X-rays. But knowing Thursday's series finale was just a little more than 12 hours away, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez wanted Freeman to get to the clubhouse to immediately ice the bruised area with the hope it would minimize the potential swelling.
"I think we dodged a bullet," Gonzalez said. "I took him out of the game because I wanted to get ice on it right away. "
The Cubs' Starlin Castro and the Giants' Hunter Pence are the only National League players who have started each of their team's games this year.
J. Upton heats up to build All-Star case
HOUSTON -- Justin Upton appears to be entering one of his hot streaks just in time to get the attention of voters before this year's All-Star balloting process concludes.
Upton hit a monstrous home run in each of the first two games the Braves have played this week at Minute Maid Park. The left fielder pulled a home run that nearly hit the train located high above the left-center-field wall during Tuesday night's series-opening victory.
During Wednesday night's victory, he highlighted a three-RBI performance with an opposite-field two-run shot that traveled at least 400 feet and landed near the back of the Astros bullpen, which is located beyond the right-center-field fence.
Upton now has 16 home runs, which ties him with Evan Gattis for the team lead.
"I'm just seeing the ball and hitting it," Upton said. "I've gotten some good pitches to hit and I've put good swings on them."
When the latest All-Star ballot updates were released this week, Upton's 1,203,302 votes led all Atlanta players, but he ranked ninth among outfielders.
Fans can cast their votes for starters at MLB.com and all 30 club sites -- online or on a mobile device -- using the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by Experian until Thursday, July 3, at 11:59 p.m. ET. The 2014 All-Star Game will be played at Target Field on Tuesday, July 15.
Braves could go to Triple-A for Saturday starter
HOUSTON -- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has not announced who will start the second game of Saturday's doubleheader in Philadelphia. But he has hinted that he's leaning toward piggybacking David Hale with a current member of Triple-A Gwinnett's pitching staff, likely Gus Schlosser.
Because of the doubleheader, the Braves will be permitted to promote a Minor League pitcher to serve as the 26th member of their roster for both ends of Saturday's doubleheader against the Phillies. Schlosser makes the most sense because he is already on the 40-man roster and he would be on regular rest on Saturday.
If Hale is not needed to work long relief before the end of Friday night's series opener against the Phillies, the Braves would have the option of having both him and Schlosser available to work three to four innings during Saturday's second game.
But if Hale is needed within the next few days, Schlosser would have the capability to handle the expected workload of a starting pitcher. Schlosser worked seven strong innings for Gwinnett on Friday. He threw 100-plus pitches in six consecutive starts from May 22-June 16.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.