ATLANTA -- The Braves are optimistic about sending left-hander Paul Maholm on a rehab assignment as early as this weekend after he threw an encouraging 79-pitch session at Turner Field on Monday afternoon.
Pitching to Paul Janish and Joey Terdoslavich on the field, Maholm simulated the off-and-on strain of six innings of game action without any discomfort in his left wrist, which has sidelined him since his first start after the All-Star break, on July 20.
"Got up and down six times, threw 79 pitches plus 40-something warming up, but he felt great," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I think that we'll wait until tomorrow to see how it feels, and then we'll come up with some kind of schedule for him going on a rehab start someplace, but we'll wait until tomorrow. But for me, getting up and down six times is good."
Maholm's impending return leaves the Braves with a decision to make between a handful of possible options for incorporating him back into the rotation. Alex Wood and Brandon Beachy have shown marked improvement from start to start since being slotted in to replace Maholm and Tim Hudson. In their starts against the Marlins this past weekend, Wood and Beachy combined to pitch 14 scoreless innings, with 13 strikeouts between them.
The tentative timetable Gonzalez laid out on Monday would have Maholm returning to the team during next week's four-game series in St. Louis after one rehab start this weekend. From there the Braves could use him to give their younger arms a start or two off down the stretch, or they could move to a six-man rotation, at the risk of having too many off-days in the schedule knocking their starters off their regular routine.
"We could give somebody a rest and plug Pauly in there and do that if we have to," Gonzalez said. "You could go six-man [rotation]; I haven't looked at the schedule. Do you want to do that and disrupt that? I don't know, we'll see. But if everything goes well, you're still talking nine days from now -- five and then another four after [the rehab start]. You're talking eight or nine days before you make that decision."
Julio Teheran would be one of the most likely candidates to have a start skipped if the Braves decided to go that route. Heading into his start against the Phillies on Monday night, Teheran was eight innings shy of his largest regular-season workload as a professional.
After throwing 137 1/3 innings during the 2012 season, nearly all of which came with Triple-A Gwinnett, Teheran tacked on roughly another 30 in the Dominican Winter League, which the team counted toward his 2012 total when determining how conservative to be with his innings this year. With those figures in mind, Gonzalez appears comfortable with Teheran's pace.
"I think he's fine, because he pitched a lot of innings in Triple-A and also winter ball [last year]," Gonzalez said. "[Pitching coach Roger McDowell] figured the rest of the way is about 196 [innings] or something like that, so that's fine."
The Braves expect a firm decision on Maholm's rehab schedule on Tuesday, but with about nine turns through the rotation left and the looming Sept. 1 expansion of active rosters from 25 to 40, they have the luxury of flexibility in determining his future role.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. Eric Single is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less