ATLANTA -- After running the stairs at Turner Field on Monday afternoon, an excited Martin Prado expressed that he believes he is ready to begin a Minor League rehab assignment. But still waiting to receive full medical clearance, the Braves might wait until at least Wednesday to allow Prado to begin playing games again.
Sidelined since he was diagnosed with a staph infection on June 9, Prado remains hopeful that he could return for this weekend's series against the Phillies. At the same time, the Braves' left fielder believes he might need 30 at-bats before he is ready to begin facing Major League competition again.
This provides a glimpse of the uncertainty surrounding the potential day Prado could return to the lineup. But the Braves can at least be encouraged that he has made steady strides since he was cleared to begin swinging a bat and performing baseball activities again last week.
"I'm just trying to get my strength back," Prado said. "When I'm running, I've been getting tired. But today it was way better. It was a piece of cake."
If Prado isn't activated before Sunday, he could spend a portion of next week's All-Star break playing with Double-A Mississippi or another of the organization's Minor League affiliates.
Chipper apologizes for umpiring comments
ATLANTA -- With his most recent cortisone injection causing some discomfort in his right knee, Chipper Jones sat at his locker Monday afternoon and said he regretted allowing his displeasure for Minor League umpire Mark Ripperger's strike zone to be critical of a broad range of Major League Baseball's umpires.
After looking at the final two pitches, both called strikes, to end Sunday's 5-4 loss to the Orioles, Jones said, "the officiating in this league is substandard for the most part." When he returned to Turner Field for Monday night's game against the Rockies, the veteran third baseman issued an apology.
"I wasn't going to give him the honor of throwing me out of the game," Jones said. "I got my say in. I got it on TV. The video doesn't lie. If there is anything I regret saying in the heat of the moment after the game is that the umpiring is substandard. Those guys do as good a job as they can."
When he looked at a second consecutive strike to end the game, Jones turned toward the dugout, flipped his bat and knocked it to the ground in frustration. But as Ripperger was continuing to look at him, the Braves' veteran never turned around or publicly voiced his displeasure until he reached the clubhouse.
Jones said he gained the sense there might be a confrontational reaction based on the one he got when he apologized for walking toward first base after Ripperger called Kevin Gregg's 3-1 pitch a strike. But at the same time, he knew he didn't want to create a scene similar to the one that played out Saturday when Blue Jays reliever Jon Rauch's jersey was ripped off when he was being restrained from umpire Alfonzo Marquez.
"I wasn't going to give him that satisfaction," Jones said. "I could get my point across better by doing what I did."
After Sunday's game, Jones received a cortisone injection to alleviate some of the pain caused by the torn meniscus in his right knee. The 39-year-old third baseman was out of the lineup Monday, but could return Tuesday. When he received a cortisone injection in May, he experienced relief for about six weeks.
Venters available after nice respite
ATLANTA -- Braves reliever Jonny Venters was once again available out of the bullpen Monday after not pitching over the weekend against the Orioles.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez said while the club was in Seattle that he wanted to give the first-time All-Star at least a couple of days off during Atlanta's series with Baltimore. He accomplished that, as the left-hander received all three games off in addition to Thursday's off-day.
He was available on Sunday in the Braves' 5-4 loss, but did not come in to pitch. He did however warm up twice in the bullpen.
"Yesterday was the first day I threw, so I was pretty pumped up about it," Venters said. "I felt great yesterday, so hopefully I can get in there."
Venters has allowed six runs in his last 2 2/3 innings after allowing just three in the previous 48 1/3 innings. He said his mechanics gradually deteriorated, but has since made adjustments to correct them.
"I was just kind of rushing down the hill," he said. "My arm was kind of dragging. I was throwing with a lot more arm than I needed to be throwing with."
Venters said he gradually started to hurt his arm as a result. But with the previous four days off to rest and correct his mechanics, he said his arm feels good and he's ready to return to work.
Venters thought his recent struggles -- which pushed his ERA from 0.56 to 1.59 -- would hurt his chances to make the All-Star team. Naturally, he was surprised when he saw his name called.
"I kind of wrote it off, actually, after that road trip I had," he said. "I really thought I blew that one."
Venters said the news didn't truly hit him until he sat down with his family Sunday night.
"We sat down and talked about it, and it was pretty cool to think about being in the same clubhouse as some of those guys," he said. "Getting mentioned with some of those names is really special."
Braves celebrate Fourth at Turner Field
ATLANTA -- The Braves and Rockies celebrated the Fourth of July on Monday at Turner Field with a special ceremony prior to first pitch.
As a video presentation showed on the video board, members of the military unveiled a large American flag in center field in the shape of the United States.
After those in attendance recited the Pledge of Allegiance, both clubs stood along the first- and third-base lines with their Stars and Stripes caps in hand, as country music singer Corey Smith sang the national anthem.