Kotsay activated, returns to center field

Kotsay activated, returns to center field

ATLANTA -- Mark Kotsay knows there's a good chance that he'll continue to battle back discomfort the rest of his career. But at the same time, he believes he's once again healthy enough to resume playing.

Kotsay was activated from the 15-day disabled list in time to be in the starting lineup for Tuesday's series opener against the Phillies at Turner Field. The veteran center fielder had been sidelined since May 25 with a lower back strain.

During a five-game Minor League rehab assignment with Double-A Mississippi, Kotsay recorded six hits in 18 at-bats. But more importantly, he was able to swing and field his position without any troubling discomfort.

"I just have to manage it and be smart," Kotsay said. "There's no question that I'll probably have to take a day when I don't want to take a day. I definitely want to play in as many games as possible the rest of the season and help this team go where we want to go."

To make room for Kotsay on the 25-man roster, the Braves optioned Brandon Jones to Triple-A Richmond. Jones hit .278 with one homer in 16 games with Atlanta.

Kotsay, who hit .294 in 47 games before going on the DL, was limited to a career-low 56 games last year after undergoing surgery to repair a disc in his back. While his ailment this year was similar, the pain was on opposite side of his back.

Because he's dealt with this pain in the past, Kotsay understands there will be some days when it will be in his best interest to rest his back. In hindsight, he admits there were probably a few games in May that he shouldn't have played.

"The main thing is I don't want to do anything out of the ordinary and I want to play under control, even though I know that probably isn't going to happen," said Kotsay, who has always been regarded as a maximum-effort type of player.

While in Mississippi, Kotsay took advantage of the opportunity to mentor top prospect Jordan Schafer, who served a 50-game suspension earlier this year for using HGH -- human growth hormone. In the 25 games he's played since returning, Schafeer has hit .274 with three homers and a .484 slugging percentage.

Before the Braves acquired Kotsay from the A's in January, they were considering using Schafer as their starting center fielder. There's a chance the 21-year-old outfielder will fill that role next season.

"There's no question that he can play in the big leagues," Kotsay said. "The maturing process for him is very important."

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