MIAMI -- Nate McLouth will aim to test his left hamstring while playing for Class A Rome on Thursday night and the Braves think there's a chance that he could return to the Major League scene as soon as Friday.
McLouth's outlook didn't look promising on Saturday when he aggravated his hamstring during a rehab game with Double-A Mississippi. But an MRI exam performed on Monday in Atlanta showed no significant damage and provided the Braves hope that they could get their Gold Glove center fielder back before the end of this week.
McLouth will take batting practice, shag fly balls and run to tolerance on Wednesday and then attempt to register at least three plate appearances for Rome on Thursday night. If all goes well, the Braves could activate him in time to be in the lineup for Friday night's series opener against the Reds.
Having never previously been on the disabled list, McLouth has been frustrated since originally injuring his hamstring on Aug. 8. When he aggravated it one week later, the Braves shut him down with the hope that he would have been able to return during Monday night's series-opener against the Marlins.
Ryan Church manned the center field position in McLouth's absence until Aug. 22, when he began experiencing lower back discomfort. Church also provided reason for optimism on Tuesday, when he said he was confident that he'd be healthy enough to play against the Marlins on Wednesday night.
"This is the best I've felt for a while," Church said. "I was hoping to be back in there [on Tuesday night]."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.