CHICAGO -- Braves right fielder Jason Heyward probably could've started Saturday afternoon's game against the White Sox, but doesn't want to push his strained right hamstring too far.
Heyward initially hurt the hamstring nine days ago trying to advance from first to third on an infield hit by Justin Upton against the Reds in the first of a four-game series before the All-Star break. He's missed four games, sandwiched around the break -- when he rested and rehabbed it.
Heyward then tested it out on Thursday and Friday with some running work and batting practice, saying before the Braves' 6-4 win on Friday that he still felt something while running. He maintained that he was "very close" to returning, possibly this weekend. That status hadn't changed on Saturday afternoon, but Heyward said it's more likely that he'll start Sunday's series finale.
"The day that I feel like I'm ready to play, give yourself one more day with a hamstring," Heyward said. "You have to be careful. I've been fortunate enough to avoid the DL and I don't want to see the DL with this, because it's something that can nag at you for a long time if you don't let it get right."
Heyward, who was hitting .290 with five home runs and 13 RBIs in his past 36 games before getting hurt, said he might be available as a late-inning defensive replacement Saturday. If so, that would clear the way back to the starting lineup Sunday. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez and athletic trainer Jeff Porter are monitoring the situation closely, giving Heyward the final call.
"I've just got to let [Gonzalez] know, 'Hey, I'm ready to go,' but [Friday], I let him know that if I felt like I could play [Saturday], then Sunday would be the smartest and he agreed," Heyward said.
The Braves continue inching toward getting most of their everyday lineup intact. First baseman Freddie Freeman, who jammed his thumb last Saturday against the Reds, started on Saturday after entering Friday night's game as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning. Justin Upton also started Friday, going 2-for-4 with two runs scored, after missing the last two games before the break with a left calf strain.
In all, two of the four lineup regulars who were hurt in that series against the Reds are back -- with Heyward on the doorstep and center fielder B.J. Upton on the 15-day disabled list with a right adductor strain.
Brian Hedger is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.