McLouth plans to return to lineup Friday

McLouth plans to return to lineup Friday

ATLANTA -- When Nate McLouth strained his left hamstring during the final week of June, it was apparent that he didn't enjoy talking about injury.

Now that he's aggravated the injury and consequently missed three straight starts, the Braves center fielder has made it known that he's extremely frustrated whenever he's physically unable to play.

"Even though I've just been out for a few days, I hate it," McLouth said. "I pride myself on being able to play every day. It's embarrassing for me whenever I can't go out there and play."

McLouth has been sidelined since he once again strained his left hamstring while racing into the right-center-field gap to make an impressive catch during the 10th inning of Saturday night's win at Dodger Stadium.

But while chasing down some fly balls during Wednesday's game against the Nationals at Turner Field, McLouth gained a sense of confidence that wasn't present on Tuesday, when he felt some discomfort whenever he needed to push off his left leg to run.

"Yesterday, I felt like one wrong move could be serious," McLouth said. "Today, it was a lot better."

Before walking away from a group of reporters, McLouth vowed that he'll be in the lineup on Friday, when the Braves open a three-game series against the first-place Phillies and attempt to move closer to the top of the National League East standings.

"I've never played in a series like this," said the former Pirates outfielder. "I wasn't looking past these two games [against the Nationals]. But I've been really looking forward to this series since we left Los Angeles."

Ryan Church made his fourth consecutive start in center field for the Braves on Wednesday night. Church had started in center on Saturday, when McLouth was given a chance to rest before entering the game in the top of the 10th inning.

After drawing a walk and then fielding Juan Pierre's leadoff single in the bottom half of the inning, McLouth was forced to exert himself while racing into right-center field to catch Russell Martin's fly ball.

When asked if he was prepared to make that run so soon after entering the game, McLouth said, "I felt like I was ready to go in the game."

When McLouth strained his left hamstring against the Red Sox on June 26, he returned one week later for a July 3 game against the Nationals. Before Saturday, he hadn't experienced any problems with his legs.

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