Now that the Atlanta Braves are finally starting to get healthy, the rest of the NL East could have an even tougher time trying to dethrone the perennial division champions.
Thomson, who has been on the disabled list since May 17 with a strained flexor tendon in his right middle finger, made a rehab start for Double-A Mississippi on Monday and announced afterward that he was ready to return. Thomson has not pitched since May 16, when he gave up one earned run and three hits in 4 1-3 innings at San Diego before leaving with the injury.
“It felt normal,” Thomson said. “I really wasn’t even thinking about it when I was loosening up in the bullpen or during the game or anything.”
Mike Hampton, who has been on the disabled list since July 18 with a back injury, will return to Atlanta’s rotation Sunday.
Thomson is 11-3 with a 2.85 ERA in 23 starts since the 2004 All-Star break.
“Hopefully, in these last two months I can get back to where I was at the end of last year and at the beginning of this year,” he said.
Thomson will square off against Ortiz, who has been on the disabled list since June 19 with a stress fracture on the right side of his rib cage. Ortiz pitched for Atlanta in 2003 and 2004, going 36-16 with a 3.97 ERA in 68 starts.
“It’s kind of neat how it worked out that way,” said Ortiz of his return to Atlanta. “It’ll be nice because, obviously, I’ve pitched a lot there and I feel comfortable there.”
Chipper Jones, who did not start in the previous eight games because of a strained right rotator cuff, returned to Atlanta’s lineup. Jones was not in manager Bobby Cox’s original lineup, but persuaded Cox to let him start after throwing the ball well in pregame workouts.
“I just want to be able to get the ball across the infield with something on it,” Jones said. “Once I got loosened up, I was fine.”
The Braves, who have won 13 consecutive division titles, lead Philadelphia and Washington by 5 1/2 games in the East.