Notes: Renteria's return uncertain

Notes: Renteria's return uncertain

ATLANTA -- Braves manager Bobby Cox doesn't know exactly when Edgar Renteria will return to his lineup. But it seems any hopes of the veteran shortstop returning within the next couple of days have been dashed.

While testing his sprained right ankle on Friday afternoon with lateral movements, Renteria experienced some discomfort. Though he was eligible for activation on Saturday, the Braves were pegging Monday as the best-case scenario for his return.

"He's definitely not going to be ready in the next couple of days," Cox said before Saturday night's game against the Diamondbacks at Turner Field.

When Renteria sprained the ankle while fielding a bad hop on Aug. 2, the Braves initially feared that he could miss a month. Rapid progress enhanced their hopes last week. But while doing figure-eight drills in the outfield on Friday morning, the shortstop realized he hadn't returned to full health.

"[He] felt OK, nothing good," Cox said in reference to Renteria, who is hitting .336 on the season and .398 (35-for-88) since the All-Star break.

As long as Renteria remains sidelined, Yunel Escobar will continue to serve as the Braves starting shortstop. While he has proven to be an asset both offensively and defensively, Escobar can't bring the same intimidating factors that Renteria adds to the Braves lineup.

In the first 13 games he's played in place of Renteria, Escobar has hit .271 with a .294 on-base percentage. The 24 year-old rookie, who debuted on June 2, made two costly errors -- one that was mental and the other caused by aggression -- that led to the two losses in last weekend's series in Philadelphia.

But when asked to grade how Escobar has performed in Renteria's absence, Chipper Jones gave his rookie teammate an "A-plus."

"He's been outstanding," Jones said. "He's swung the bat great and played really good defense."

Chipper says don't discount NL: Before this season began, Jones thought that the Braves would need to win 90 games to at least gain postseason entry via the Wild Card. As the current pace, the National League's Wild Card entrant would only need to record 87 wins.

Entering Saturday's action, the Braves trailed the first-place Mets by 4 1/2 games in the NL East race. But they were just 1 1/2 games behind the Phillies and Padres, who are tied for the lead in a crowded Wild Card race.

There are currently six teams within 3 1/2 games of the NL Wild Card lead and the Diamondbacks are the only NL team on pace to record more than 92 wins this season.

"There are some teams that are mediocre," Jones said. "But the [National] League isn't mediocre. The league has got a lot of parity. There are a lot of teams that are pretty evenly matched."

In the American League, where there are just three teams within three games of the Wild Card lead, there's more disparity between the top-level and bottom level teams. But because there isn't currently one clear-cut favorite to win the pennant, it can be argued that the Junior Circuit also contains good parity.

The Red Sox and Angels are the only AL teams on pace to record at least 95 wins. The Mariners, who lead the Wild Card race, are on pace for 91 wins.

"The American League gets a lot of the [publicity] because they have the massive offenses and the guys who throw 100 mph," Jones said. "But [the National League] can be just as good."

Cody's rebound: With his two-homer performance for Rookie Level Danville on Friday, Cody Johnson continued to show the power the Braves envisioned when they took him with their first pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft. Johnson, who celebrated his 19th birthday on Saturday, is hitting .288 with 14 homers and a .611 slugging percentage. He's struck out 57 times and drawn 20 walks in 218 plate appearances.

While playing in the Gulf Coast League last year, Johnson hit .184 with one homer and a .281 slugging percentage. He struck out 49 times and drew just 12 walks in 127 plate appearances.

Beating the heat: With Saturday's late-afternoon temperatures in the upper 90's, Braves manager Bobby Cox decided to have his players take their batting practice in the clubhouse's batting cages. This has been the hottest that Atlanta has been during any of the Braves' homestands this year.

"We probably should do this three or four days a week," Cox said.

Coming Up: The Braves will conclude their three-game series against the Diamondbacks on Sunday afternoon at 1:05 p.m. ET. They'll send John Smoltz (10-6, 3.09 ERA) to the mound to oppose Yusmeiro Petit (2-3, 4.23).

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.