McLouth expected in Atlanta on Thursday

McLouth expected in Atlanta on Thursday

ATLANTA -- Just four days into June, the Braves' outfield has undergone several changes since the final day of May. After enduring the first two months of the season with an outfield that ranked near the bottom of the league in several offensive categories, general manager Frank Wren has added an All-Star in hopes of adding some punch.

Nate McLouth, an All-Star and Gold Glove winner in 2008 with the Pirates, adds a consistent bat, stellar defense and stolen-base capability to a lineup that desperately needed all three.

McLouth is expected in Atlanta before batting practice on Thursday. It is not known whether he will start in the rubber game of the Braves' series with the Cubs, but it seems likely that he will.

"He's definitely an upgrade," said Braves closer Mike Gonzalez, who played with McLouth in Pittsburgh in 2005 and '06. "He's a great clubhouse guy. He's fluent in Spanish, too. He's just a top-notch guy."

The 27-year-old native of Muskegon, Mich., was acquired for Minor League pitchers Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke, as well as outfield prospect Gorkys Hernandez. With the continued offensive improvement of Garret Anderson and the recent good play of Jeff Francoeur, McClouth could help turn Atlanta's outfield from weak to above-average.

McLouth is signed through 2011 with a club option for '12. The fact that he will be locked up for a few years was one of the deciding factors in the Braves' decision to pursue him.

"This is not a rent-a-guy-for-a-year situation," said Braves general manager Frank Wren. "This is a guy who's going to be here for four years. That makes all the difference in the world.

The players learned of the trade during the second inning of Wednesday's loss to the Cubs. McLouth's picture was shown on the video board at Turner Field and his accomplishments were announced to the crowd of 30,646, leading to a noticeable ovation.

"It doesn't bring any excitement to [Wednesday's] game," said catcher Brian McCann. "It brings excitement to the future of this organization. You don't just grow those guys everywhere. He's a proven guy that's had a lot of success."

With McLouth, the Braves get a career .261 hitter who hit 26 home runs and stole 23 bases last season on his way to making his first All-Star team. He also hit an NL-leading 46 doubles in 2008 and led NL center fielders with a .997 fielding percentage, committing one error in 390 chances. His nine home runs this season are more than Anderson and Francoeur combined.

"He can run, he can throw and he can hit," said McCann. "You talk about five-tool athletes, and he's probably at the top of everybody's list."

The Braves had hoped 22-year-old Jordan Schafer was ready to make the jump to the Majors after an impressive spring. However, Schafer struggled to adjust to big league pitching. He was hitting just .204 with 64 strikeouts before he was sent down to Triple-A Gwinnett on Tuesday in favor of Gregor Blanco.

Pitching matchup
ATL: RHP Jair Jurrjens (5-2, 2.59 ERA)
The right-hander received the run support he had been seeking all season but struggled in an 88-pitch outing against the D-backs in his last time out. Against Arizona, Jurrjens was charged with eight hits and five runs in five innings. He had pitched at least six innings in his four previous starts and seven of his last eight before the outing in Arizona.

CHC: RHP Carlos Zambrano (3-2, 4.22 ERA)
This will be Zambrano's first start after serving his six-game suspension. The right-hander was penalized for his antics on May 27, when he argued a close call at home plate, threw a baseball into left field, then hurled his glove and took his frustrations out with a bat on a Gatorade dispenser in the Cubs dugout. As far as pitching goes, he's one win away from No. 100 in his career and needs four K's to tie Bill Hutchinson for sixth on the team's all-time strikeout list. Before he was ejected, Zambrano gave up two runs on seven hits over 6 1/3 innings against the Pirates.

Tidbits
Outfielder Brian Barton was called up from Triple-A Gwinnett before Wednesday's game. He pinch-ran for Francoeur in the ninth inning and was caught stealing. Pitcher Jorge Campillo was placed on the 15-day DL with right shoulder tendinitis to make room on the roster. ... Derek Lowe's quality start on Wednesday was his team-leading ninth of the season. ... McCann has hit safely in 17 of 22 games since returning from the DL on May 8. ... Chipper Jones is three RBIs shy of 1,400 for his career.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• SPSO, MLBN

On radio
• 640 WGST, Project 9-6-1

Up next
• Friday: Braves (Javier Vazquez, 4-4, 3.58) vs. Brewers (Yovani Gallardo, 5-2, 3.18), 7:30 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Braves (Tommy Hanson, 0-0, -.--) vs. Brewers (Jeff Suppan, 3-4, 5.09), 7:00 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Braves (Kenshin Kawakami, 3-6, 4.63) vs. Brewers (Manny Parra, 3-7, 6.75), 1:30 p.m. ET

Adam Rosenberg is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.