Notes: Escobar new utility man?
Young infielder makes first big-league start at second base
ATLANTA -- While at Double-A Mississippi last year, Yunel Escobar wasn't exactly receptive to playing second base on a regular basis. But if he proves that he can handle the position on a regular basis with the Braves, there's a chance he could prolong his stay at the Major League level.
When Braves manager Bobby Cox gave Escobar his first career start at second base in Sunday night's series finale against the Tigers at Turner Field, his primary reason was to give starting second baseman Kelly Johnson a chance to rest.
But with Chipper Jones off the disabled list and back at third base, Cox also needed to find a way to get Escobar, a natural shortstop, a chance to get some at-bats. The 24-year-old Cuban played 24 games at second base with Mississippi last year.
"The organization liked what they saw from him there," Cox said of Escobar, whose hesitancy to play second base stemmed from the fact that there would be some instances where he would have to turn a double play with his back to an incoming baserunner.
Sunday night's jumbled lineup included Escobar batting leadoff, Chris Woodward making his second start of the season at first base and Jarrod Saltalamacchia giving starting catcher Brian McCann a break behind the plate.
"You can say it's a shaken-up lineup," said Cox, whose team entered Sunday having scored just run in the past 38 innings. "But I would have done this if we had won eight [games] in a row."
Escobar, who has hit .275 in the fist 69 at-bats of his career, has shown the Braves he's ready to be a productive player at the Major League level. But with Jones now healthy and shortstop Edgar Renteria enjoying an All-Star-caliber season, Escobar finds himself without a legitimate position.
The Braves would like to continue Escobar's development by getting him regular at-bats. But there's a chance they could end up utilizing him as a utility player. To do so, they'd likely have to send Pete Orr to Triple-A Richmond. Orr has hit .192 in just 52 at-bats this year.
Davies progressing: Lost amid Saturday's fourth straight loss was the solid effort provided by Kyle Davies, who limited the potent Tigers lineup to two earned runs over 6 1/3 innings. Davies was forced to leave in the seventh inning with what he hopes was just cramping in his left oblique muscle.
Davies came to the stadium encouraged by the lack of discomfort and the information he'd received from Tim Hudson and Mike Hampton, two fellow Braves pitchers who have dealt with oblique injuries in the past.
"Huddy said, 'If you can push in there and it doesn't hurt that bad, then you should be all right,'" Davies said while sticking a few fingers under his left rib cage. "I can push in there."
With the humid temperatures that Saturday brought, Davies experienced cramping in his legs. He's hoping that dehydration may have played a part in the discomfort that he felt in his oblique region.
After Davies throws a side session on Monday, the Braves will get a better understanding of whether he'll be able to make his scheduled start on Friday against the Marlins at Dolphin Stadium.
"Right now, we think he's going to be OK," Cox said. "We won't know until he throws tomorrow."
Feeling some relief: Before getting a cortisone shot on Thursday, Cox had spent the better part of 10 days feeling extreme discomfort in his back. The crippling pain prevented him from simply resting his shoulders against the bench, while sitting.
But over the course of the past four days, he's experienced little pain in his back, which he says has given him problems since he was 16 years old.
"I'm shocked," Cox said. "I didn't expect it to get better this quickly."
Coming up: The Braves will open a three-game series against the Nationals at Turner Field on Monday night at 7:05 p.m. ET. They'll send Tim Hudson (6-5, 3.43 ERA) to the mound to face Jason Bergmann (1-3, 2.76).
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.