ATLANTA -- After the Braves' 5-0 win on Friday night, the team announced that Jordan Schafer would be activated from the 15-day disabled list before Saturday's game, marking the end of the utility outfielder's lengthy recovery process from a lingering ankle injury that morphed from the sting of a typical foul ball into an unusual stress fracture.
Outfielder Jose Constanza will be sent down to Gwinnett to clear a roster spot for Schafer, who has been on the DL since July 4 with a right ankle contusion. A week after placing their speedy outfielder on the DL, general manager Frank Wren announced that team doctors had discovered an intraosseous stress fracture in Schafer's ankle that sidelined him for an additional four weeks.
Schafer struggled at the plate over the course of his rehab assignment, finishing 2-for-32 in eight games after an 0-for-5 performance on Thursday and an 0-for-4 effort on Friday. But the Braves saw enough improvement in the quality of his at-bats in the past two days to announce he would be activated before Saturday's game.
"If you go up the road to Gwinnett and ask Schafer if he's ready, he's going to tell you yes, but we're going to give him another day, get some at-bats," Gonzalez said on Friday afternoon. "The reports said yesterday's game was a lot better. His timing was a lot better, he looked better at the plate and more comfortable. This guy's missed a lot of games, so his timing's a little bit off."
Schafer could be just the first of two key backups to return to the team this weekend. Catcher Gerald Laird joined Schafer in the lineup on Friday night for Gwinnett's series opener against Lehigh Valley, hitting second behind Schafer in the leadoff spot, and the Braves believe his return is not far off.
Laird took the field for the first time since he landed on the DL, retroactive to July 26, after undergoing a procedure to remove a kidney stone. Laird caught six innings and went 0-for-3 on Friday night in Gwinnett.
"If he feels good, he could join us tomorrow," Gonzalez said before Friday's game. "If he feels like he needs some more at-bats, then he can stay there and maybe [serve as the designated hitter], so we'll leave that up to him. With a catcher, it's a lot tougher time saying, 'Go down there and catch three games, four games,' because they're in the middle of a foul tip -- break a finger, do something bad."
Laird's impending return gives the Braves the luxury of a third catcher, enabling Gonzalez to use Evan Gattis more freely as a pinch-hitter on days when he does not start at catcher or in left field. In his previous 11 games before fouling a ball off his right foot on June 26, Schafer hit .400 (10-for-25) with a home run and five RBIs while spelling all three starting outfielders and making an impact as a pinch-hitter.
Eric Single is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.