ATLANTA -- Arodys Vizcaino has been activated from the disabled list, but the Braves right-hander will have to earn the closer's role he lost courtesy of the struggles he began experiencing during the latter portion of June.
Vizcaino certainly didn't enhance his bid as he did not retire any of the four batters he faced during the eighth inning of Thursday night's 8-2 loss to the Nationals at Turner Field. This was his first appearance since he strained his right oblique muscle on July 15.
Given the responsibility to keep the Braves within one run, Vizcaino surrendered a leadoff single to Jayson Werth and then issued consecutive walks to Daniel Murphy and Bryce Harper. He exited his ugly 21-pitch (nine strikes) outing after hitting Anthony Rendon with a pitch to force in a run. Each of the four batters Vizcaino faced ended up scoring.
"He's been pitching a lot," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "This was his first time back here. We'll run him back out there again. If it was rust, hopefully, he knocked it off and he'll be better next time."
Before Thursday's game, Snitker confirmed he would continue to utilize Jim Johnson as his closer. Johnson replaced Vizcaino in this role before the All-Star break and then began to flourish near the end of July.
Johnson blew a save opportunity against the Reds on July 19 and then allowed a run while pitching in a non-save situation at Coors Field four days later. But the veteran reliever has since recorded 10 consecutive scoreless innings that have included four hits, three walks and 14 strikeouts.
Vizcaino had been slated to be activated this weekend. But the Braves opted to accelerate the process after Jason Hursh allowed four runs on one hit and three walks while facing just five batters during the ninth inning of Wednesday's 10-3 loss to the Twins.
Hursh was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett to create a roster spot for Vizcaino, who has produced a 3.75 ERA over 36 innings this season.
Vizcaino began this season as Atlanta's closer and performed effectively enough to be considered a potential All-Star candidate. But after posting a 1.93 ERA and converting 10 of 12 save opportunities over the 34 appearances made through June 26, he surrendered six hits, issued seven walks and allowed eight runs -- five earned -- over the 3 1/3 innings that followed.