ATLANTA — The Atlanta Braves may soon face a difficult decision with Mark Teixeira, the team's cleanup hitter and possible free agent.
The Braves are still close enough to first place to become a factor in the NL East, but they matched their low point of the season at four games under .500 with Tuesday night's loss to Philadelphia.
Should the Braves fall further behind the Phillies before the July 31 deadline to trade a player without securing waivers, they might consider a deal for Teixeira.
Teixeira was traded to Atlanta from Texas under similar conditions on July 31, 2007. He said Wednesday he hopes to spend the full season with the Braves.
"I feel like I have some unfinished business here with the Braves," Teixeira said. "I was brought here during a pennant race last year. (A playoff appearance) didn't happen last year and I'm hoping that it does this year."
Teixeira, 28, hit a combined total of 30 homers and drove in 105 runs for the Rangers and Braves in 2007. He entered Wednesday night's game against the Phillies hitting .272 with 16 homers. He was seventh in the National League with 63 RBIs.
Teixeira is in position to extend his streak of four straight seasons with at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs.
Chipper Jones and Teixeira give the Braves the unusual advantage of two switch-hitters hitting third and fourth, respectively. The protection in the lineup provided by Teixeira has helped Jones, leading the majors with his .393 batting average, enjoy a strong first half.
Teixeira, represented by Scott Boras, is earning $12.5 million this year. A bigger contract likely is coming after the season, either from the Braves or as a free agent.
How big? Before he was traded last season, Teixeira turned down an eight-year, $140 million offer from Texas.
The Braves gave up a package of five players, including catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, left-hander Matt Harrison and shortstop Elvis Andrus, to obtain Teixeira. If they feel they can't re-sign the first baseman, they could have more reason to seek a trade.
"I went through (the speculation) last year, so it's nothing new," Teixeira said.
"I hope it (trade) doesn't happen. I hope those rumors don't start. But it's not going to change what I do on the field. Whatever happens, happens."
PRADO ON HOLD: The Braves were close to activating infielder Martin Prado from the disabled list Wednesday. Manager Bobby Cox decided the smart move was to wait until after Wednesday night's game to make sure shortstop Yunel Escobar was healthy.
Escobar returned to the lineup after missing six starts with a jammed left shoulder.
Infielder Omar Infante still has a tight hamstring, so the Braves wanted to keep backup shortstop Brent Lillibridge in Atlanta for at least one more game before activating Prado. Lillibridge likely will be optioned to Triple-A Richmond when Prado comes off the disabled list.
BOUND FOR THE BIG APPLE: Jones continues to hold a big lead in the NL All-Star voting at third base. The only question may be if he remains healthy enough to start.
There's no question, however, about Jones showing up for the game at Yankee Stadium.
"I'm gonna (play) as long as I can stay somewhat healthy," Jones said Wednesday. "But I'll go regardless. That's an experience I don't want to miss."
Jones returned Tuesday after missing eight straight starts with a strained right quadriceps. He said he had no problem with the injury in the game and was back in the lineup on Wednesday night.