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Big League Stew

Double trouble: B.J. and Justin Upton suffer muscle strains as Braves outfield thins out

Mark Townsend
Big League Stew

The past 48 hours have been rough on the Atlanta Braves from an injury standpoint.

During Thursday night's 6-5 victory over the Cincinnati Reds, right fielder Jason Heyward tweaked his right hamstring after running first to third on a base hit and then sliding awkwardly into the base. He was out of Atlanta's lineup on Friday and his availability for the weekend is not yet known.

The Braves also learned on Friday that backup outfielder Jordan Schafer, who has been sidelined since July 3 with an ankle injury but was expected to return immediately after the all-star break, will now be lost for at least one additional month after an MRI revealed a stress fracture.

That's two big pieces of their outfield puzzle missing going into Friday night's game, so obviously the worst case scenario would be losing another before the All-Star break saves them on Monday. Or least that's what they thought would be the worst case scenario. Unfortunately, a scenario far worse actually played out, because not just one, but both Upton brothers were forced to exit on Friday with muscle strains.

Older brother B.J. Upton was the first to go down on Friday when he suffered what the team is calling a strained abductor muscle after awkwardly diving and ultimately failing to grab Todd Frazier's sinking line drive in the first inning. Upton appeared to misread the ball off the bat and initially took a step straight in. He then had to quickly change course to his left, which could be where the injury occurred.

Upton also hit the ground hard with his right knee, causing a considerable divit in the outfield turf. That's not something you see often, and it's possible that awkward impact may be the cause or a contributor to the injury.

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The result of the play was an RBI triple for Frazier after the ball ended up deflecting all the way over to right field where Reed Johnson struggled to corral it, but the potential lose of Upton is far more concerning than the play's outcome.

That became an even concern after Justin Upton joined his brother in the trainer's room when he came up hobbled while attempting to run out a routine groundball in the seventh inning. The early word on Justin is a strained left calf, which will take his name off the list of possible injury replacements Tuesday's All-Star Game and leave the Braves with a mashed up outfield alignment.

On Friday, manager Fredi Gonzalez ended up moving lone remaining veteran outfielder Reed Johnson to center field and then back to right. Joey Terdoslavich entered the game to play left field after B.J.'s injury and remained there the rest of the game. Now here's where it gets really tricky. Tyler Pastornicky, a middle infielder with no outfield experience to speak of in professional ball, was moved to center field. And that may be where he stays as Atlanta limps into the break.

Not an ideal situation at all, but there's not a lot the Braves can do when the Upton brothers insist on following in each others footsteps. Whether it be home run milestones, late game heroics, or even injuries, when one brother sets a standard, the other is sure to follow.

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