ATLANTA -- Manager Fredi Gonzalez could finalize his decisions on the makeup of the Braves' playoff roster and rotation within the next couple of days as the team prepares to host Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Thursday, but with several injuries, and performances to observe and discuss, Gonzalez reiterated Sunday morning he will take his time if necessary.
The closest thing to a sure bet within the Braves' playoff plans appears to be the rotation, where Kris Medlen, Mike Minor and Julio Teheran will start the first three games of the NLDS, in a yet-to-be-announced order.
"This afternoon or tomorrow, we'll have a clearer picture of what's going on and what we want, but the rotation, you guys gotta do the math, really," Gonzalez said. "Unless something crazy happens here in the next couple of days, it won't be any surprises of what we can do and what we want to do."
The battle between veterans Paul Maholm and Freddy Garcia for starting duties in a potential Game 4 is still up in the air, and Gonzalez did concede Sunday that his decision could be influenced by the matchups presented by the Braves' opponent. An official announcement on the postseason rotation could come as early as Sunday afternoon.
As for the bullpen, Gonzalez's biggest question concerns the health of right-hander Jordan Walden, who appeared for the first time in 11 days on Saturday night and allowed one earned run in two-thirds of an inning. Walden, who has dealt with nagging groin soreness, felt better as his outing went on and could head to Florida for some instructional league work before the team decides whether he is healthy enough to contribute in the playoffs.
"I think there's a possibility we send him to Orlando to get him an inning, get him back on the hill," Gonzalez said. "We're also talking about maybe throwing him up here in a simulated game, but this time of year, I don't know where you get hitters who want to face a guy throwing 97 [mph] and nasty like he is."
The three days off between Sunday's regular season finale and Game 1 should also allow Braves regulars Brian McCann and Chris Johnson to heal up in time for postseason play. McCann was lifted from Thursday's game with soreness in his right groin after struggling to get loose, and Johnson got the day off Sunday, having dealt with a sore throwing shoulder since diving for a play in the field on Thursday.
Johnson sits out finale due to shoulder, not exchange
ATLANTA -- Braves third baseman Chris Johnson's exclusion from the starting lineup for Sunday's regular season finale against the Phillies was not a product of the heated exchange he had with first-base coach Terry Pendleton after Saturday night's 5-4 loss.
After arriving at Turner Field on Sunday morning, Johnson addressed the issue with Pendleton, then went to the trainer's room to receive treatment on his right shoulder, which has bothered him since he dove for a ball Thursday night. All indications are that Johnson just needs a couple days to rest the ailment before returning to the lineup for Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Thursday.
"He's been playing through it and we just decided not to risk it anymore," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I want to say emphatically [the shoulder] is the reason he's not in the lineup today."
Johnson's shoulder discomfort played a part in the throwing error he made in the fifth inning. But that miscue did not prove costly, and the hot topic following Saturday's game came courtesy of the postgame confrontation Pendleton and Johnson had in the dugout moments after Johnson grounded out to end the game with the tying run on second base.
Victimized by Philadelphia shortstop Jimmy Rollins' game-ending defensive gem, Johnson returned to the dugout and rather calmly spun his batting helmet toward the bat rack. What appeared to be a rather innocent action drew a heated response when the helmet hit Pendleton, who had previously addressed the issue of Johnson throwing items in the dugout.
"It's something we've talked about all year long, and tried to get together and work on all year long," Johnson said. "It's a learning process for me. TP is old school. It's one of those things when it happens, he's going to confront you as soon as it happens. It's all good. It's good for me to learn from that and make sure it doesn't happen again. The last thing I want is to take out some anger on something and then have it hurt somebody on the team."
After getting hit by the helmet, an incensed Pendleton grabbed Johnson by the jersey and offered a few heated words before both individuals pushed themselves away from each other. Johnson grabbed some items off the bench before Pendleton once again attempted to grab him. They were quickly separated, and the events did not spill over into the clubhouse.
"I'm a nutjob sometimes," Johnson said. "My helmet slipped out of my hand and it hit someone. That's not good. I'm in the wrong right there. I came in today, talked to TP, apologized and we'll move on."
Gonzalez was confident the issue is dead. Pendleton addressed this issue with Johnson as recently as a week earlier during a three-game series at Wrigley Field.
"Chris Johnson is a likeable, loveable guy," Gonzalez said. "Sometimes in the course of a game, the adrenaline flows. TP is about as close to [Johnson] as he is with anybody on the team. It's over with. I've spoken to Chris and I've spoken to TP. Those two gentlemen have spoken, and that is it."
While attempting to help the Braves finish the season with the National League's best record, Johnson has spent the past week seeing his chance to win a batting title evaporate. He entered last Sunday leading the race. But his batting average has dropped from .332 to .321 as he has recorded just two hits in his past 23 at-bats.
"I'm a fiery guy too," Johnson said. "It's one of those things where I need to find a way to cool off. That was TP's way of trying to help me out. Everything is all good."
Beachy expects normal offseason after minor surgery
ATLANTA -- The minor surgery Brandon Beachy underwent Thursday to clean up the debris that had been bothering his pitching elbow ensured that Beachy would finish the 2013 season with only 30 innings of Major League work, a result that underscores the fickle nature of the rehab process from Tommy John surgery.
The right-hander was back in the Atlanta clubhouse Sunday and looking forward to a relatively normal offseason, free of the frustratingly slow rehab process he endured last winter while working toward a midseason return to form that never fully materialized. Beachy had his return pushed back, then ultimately cut short due to inflammation in his elbow that Dr. James Andrews attributed to a bone spur and other "loose bodies" in his throwing arm in a follow-up examination earlier this month.
"I didn't need to go down there to know something wasn't right, but there was definitely a sense of relief finding what the doctors had speculated they would find, and then having the reaffirmation that my ligament's good," Beachy said. "It definitely puts the mind at ease a little bit."
MRI and X-ray results did not show any structural damage to Beachy's elbow, and only a CT scan revealed the debris that had been hampering his return to full strength. After walking off the field for the last time this season on Aug. 20, when his velocity took a sharp dip toward the end of a six-inning start in New York, Beachy is looking forward to entering Spring Training with a clean bill of health.
He was told the recovery time for his most recent surgery runs between four and six weeks, which should not significantly interfere with his typical offseason regimen.
"I can't wait to just pick up a ball and hopefully feel normal again, and that's exactly what I expect from the three months or so that I'm going to get off here," Beachy said. "On a personal level, I'm looking forward to that, but I can't wait to watch these guys in the playoffs. It's what the guys have worked hard all year for, and I want to be here to support them."
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.