MIAMI -- When the Braves promoted Jose Constanza to make his Major League debut July 29, they did not know how long he would stick around. But as he has continued to provide value with his bat and legs, the 27-year-old rookie has earned more playing time than Jason Heyward.
Heyward homered during Sunday's win over the Mets and has shown glimpses of encouragement against right-handed pitchers. But with the Braves facing Marlins left-hander Brad Hand Monday night, the 21-year-old right fielder was out of the lineup for the fourth time in the past seven games. Atlanta has faced left-handed starters in three of those games.
Heyward was struggling when he went on the disabled list in May with a sore right shoulder and since being activated, he has hit .120 (6-for-50) against left-handed pitchers. He has batted .200 (12-for-60) since the All-Star break.
Constanza entered Monday batting .500 (13-for-26) in his previous seven games, with five hits in nine at-bats against left-handed pitchers.
"Jason has been having better at-bats," manage Fredi Gonzalez said. "I hope it gets to a point where everybody gets hot."
With the likelihood Chipper Jones will need some regular rest down the stretch, Martin Prado will spend some time at third base and open opportunities for Constanza and Heyward to be in the lineup at the same time.
McCann eyes Friday return, but only if ready
MIAMI -- While taking batting practice and throwing in the outfield before Monday night's game at Sun Life Stadium, Braves catcher Brian McCann did not feel the discomfort that was present in his left side when he played long toss at Citi Field on Sunday.
Encouraged by the improvement, McCann remains hopeful that he could be activated from the disabled list as early as Friday. But the six-time All-Star and the Braves realize how important it will be to make sure the left oblique muscle he strained July 26 has completely healed.
"I'm going to be smart with it and not do anything that would cause a setback," McCann said. "I'm going to ease into it. I feel like I could go out there now and help this team win. If I can do everything without having a chance to hurt myself, I'm going to get back in there."
McCann is looking forward to seeing how he feels when he takes batting practice, throws and simulates some catching exercises Tuesday. Before Monday, the 27-year-old backstop had not hit outside since suffering the injury. Thus, he was still being cautious with his swings.
"I don't want to have a timetable and then rush myself," McCann said. "I'd like to be back Friday, and I'm going to do everything in my power to do that."
While McCann will need at least a short rehab assignment, there is some concern about him handling the catching duties during a Minor League game and suffering a different injury. There is a possibility he will attempt to condition himself with different catching-related activities this week and simply serve as a designated hitter when playing a Minor League game.
Streak ends, but Freeman's focus on winning
MIAMI -- Freddie Freeman enjoyed his 20-game hitting streak. But Atlanta's rookie first baseman showed his maturity Sunday when he proved he understood it was more important for him to get on base than to extend the streak.
In the process of going hitless in four at-bats during Sunday's 6-5 win over the Mets, Freeman concluded a seven-pitch, sixth-inning plate appearance by looking at ball four. While he did not score after drawing the one-out walk, his patience in that situation further indicated the maturity he possesses at 21-years-old.
"It's a hitting streak, the most important thing is we won the game and that's all that really matters," said Freeman, who singled in his first at-bat Monday against the Marlins. "When I came back to the stadium today, everybody said, 'Congratulations and it was fun to watch.'"
During his career-best 20-game hitting streak, Freeman batted .402 with a .444 on-base percentage and .573 slugging percentage. His batting average rose from .272 to .299, and he touched the .300 mark for the first time in his career Friday.
Freeman's streak was the longest for a rookie in the Majors this year and the second-longest streak by a rookie in Braves' franchise history. Alvin Dark holds the rookie record of 23 in 1948.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.