Braves unsure about McLouth's next step

Braves unsure about McLouth's next step

MIAMI -- Nate McLouth received some encouraging news after undergoing an MRI exam on Monday, and Ryan Church experienced enough lower-back relief to gain hope that he could return to Tuesday's lineup. But for now, the Braves aren't sure how much their top center-field options will be able to contribute during the season's final month.

While examining the results of the exam McLouth underwent in Atlanta, Braves doctors didn't view anything that provided indication that he's dealing with something more than a nagging hamstring strain.

Braves general manager Frank Wren said the club's medical staff would continue to discuss McLouth's situation before determining whether he should rehab with the big league club or possibly attempt to begin playing again in Minor League games toward the latter part of this week.

"Those are the things that we are kind of kicking around," Wren said. "It's one of those things where hamstrings are funny in how they respond and how quickly the guy becomes pain-free and tightness-free."

McLouth strained his hamstring at Dodger Stadium on Aug. 8 and then aggravated it during an Aug. 15 game against the Phillies. While running at Turner Field last week, it appeared that McLouth be ready to be activated from the disabled list on Monday.

But McLouth aggravated the hamstring again while playing with Double-A Mississippi on Saturday night.

With McLouth unavailable, the Braves were counting on Church to handle the center-field duties on a regular basis. But he began feeling lower back discomfort on Aug. 21 and has played just two games since then.

Church, who was scratched from Sunday night's starting lineup after feeling more discomfort during batting practice, said that the anti-inflammatory medication he's been taking seemed to provide some relief on Monday. Thus, he's at least hopeful to play against the Marlins on Tuesday night.

"It's late in the year, you've got to do whatever it takes," Church said.

Church will likely now seek a chiropractor in the attempt to alleviate some of his discomfort.

Because of liability issues, many Major League clubs choose not to provide players with a specific chiropractor. But at the same time, they don't necessarily object to a player's choice to independently find and utilize one.

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