MILWAUKEE -- For most of the first two months of this season, the Braves have kept their fingers crossed in hopes that Mark Kotsay's back would remain healthy. But during this final week of May, they are facing the possibility that Kotsay's back will keep him out of the lineup for at least a few more days.
When Kotsay arrived at Miller Park on Tuesday, his back wasn't any better than it had been on Monday afternoon, when he missed the series finale against the Diamondbacks. Thus, Braves manager Bobby Cox was forced to keep his veteran center fielder out of the lineup for a second straight day and at least think about the possibility of putting him on the disabled list.
"We're going to see how he is day-to-day," Cox said. "He won't be available for anything, tonight anyhow."
After having back surgery in March of last year, Kotsay returned and was limited to a career-low 56 games with the A's. When he was traded to the Braves in January, critics voiced concerns about how long he'd be able to avoid any back problems.
Kotsay admits he never expected to totally avoid back problems this season, but at the same time, he still views his absence from the lineup as a temporary solution that's aimed toward preventing a potential long-term problem.
Before Tuesday, the only other time Kotsay missed consecutive starts this year was April 24 and 25. At that time, he was battling stiffness between his neck and right shoulder. He believed that ailment was a product of sleeping in an awkward position.
"I'm not concerned," Kotsay said. "I knew going into the season that my back would keep me out of the lineup at some point. All you can hope is that it's not a prolonged thing, and right now, I don't think that it is."
Cox is hoping that he might be able to get Kotsay in the lineup before the end of this week. At the same time, he said there's at least a chance the veteran outfielder could be placed on the disabled list.
But he revealed this thought before knowing that he'd be placing outfielder Matt Diaz on the 15-day disabled list with a left knee injury a few hours later. Rafael Soriano will take Diaz's roster spot.
While hitting .321 over the course of his past 23 games, Kotsay has proved to be a definite benefit to the Braves lineup. In his absence, Gregor Blanco will likely handle most of the duties in center field. Omar Infante is also capable of playing the position.
"When you play on a stiff back, you aren't doing yourself any favors," Kotsay said. "At this point, I don't think I could help the team tonight."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.