McKirahan could return to Braves on July 20

Suspended reliever starts rehab stint; Vizcaino likely to get another outing

McKirahan could return to Braves on July 20

ATLANTA -- Left-handed reliever Andrew McKirahan was assigned to begin his suspension rehab with Triple-A Gwinnett on Saturday. If McKirahan remains healthy over the next few weeks, he will likely rejoin Atlanta's bullpen July 20.

McKirahan is nearing the end of his 80-game performance-enhancing-drug suspension that began April 18. As long as none of the Braves' games are postponed, the suspension will expire after the July 19 game against the Cubs.

Because McKirahan was selected in this year's Rule 5 Draft, the Braves have to keep him on their Major League active roster throughout this season or offer him back to the Cubs for $25,000. Thus, the Braves are expected to activate him as soon as the suspension expires.

McKirahan was selected by the Marlins out of the Cubs' organization in the Rule 5 Draft and then traded him to the Braves during the final week of Spring Training. The 25-year-old southpaw made three appearances for Atlanta before testing positive for ipamorelin, a performance-enhancing substance whose usage is in violation of Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

The test was performed while McKirahan was still with the Marlins during Spring Training. But the results were not known until the completion of the regular season's second week.

Braves right-handed reliever Arodys Vizcaino was eligible to join Atlanta's bullpen Saturday, when his PED suspension ended. But the Braves will likely have him make at least one more appearance for Gwinnett. Vizcaino surrendered three hits and issued a walk while allowing three runs in a three-inning appearance for Gwinnett on Friday night.

If Vizcaino starts pitching more effectively, he, McKirahan and Manny Banuelos could all be a part of Atlanta's bullpen after the All-Star break. Banuelos will make his second career start Tuesday in Milwaukee. But because he is on an innings limit, he might conclude the season as a reliever.

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