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Posted: 3:00 a.m. Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Braves’ Heyward on DL after appendectomy in Denver

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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

DENVER – Jason Heyward figured he had something worse than a stomach virus when he couldn’t lay on his side late Monday afternoon. A few hours later, the Braves right fielder had an emergency appendectomy at a Denver hospital.

The laprascopic procedure was successful and manager Fredi Gonzalez said Heyward should be recovered in two weeks, after a stint on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to Sunday.

“I went (to the hospital) this morning and saw him, spent about 20 minutes with him,” Gonzalez said Tuesday morning, before the Braves’ doubleheader against the Rockies at Coors Field. “He was in good spirits. Beat up a little bit, as you would expect, from the surgery. But give him a couple of weeks and he should be ready to go.”

Utility man Tyler Pastornicky was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett to fill Heyward’s roster spot and arrived at Coors Field before the doubleheader opener Tuesday. He hit .351 with six doubles and a homer in 18 games for Gwinnett.

Gonzalez said Jordan Schafer and Reed Johnson would get most playing time in right while Heyward’s on the DL.

Recovery for appendix surgery is typically 2-3 weeks for baseball players, although Matt Holliday of the Cardinals and Adam Dunn of the White Sox returned from laparascopic appendectomies in about one week in 2011. Neither went on the DL, but it’s more common for a player to be DL’d and not rush the recovery.

Gonzalez and assistant hitting coach Scott Fletcher said Heyward began feeling ill during the weekend series at Pittsburgh, but thought it might just be a virus. His condition worsened Monday in Denver, where the Braves spent several hours at Coors Field during the afternoon before the series opener was postponed due to snow.

“He didn’t sound good,” said first baseman Freddie Freeman, who talked with Heyward after he got back to the team hotel and tried to rest. “He said he could only lay on his back, he couldn’t lay on his side. He said he was feeling terrible.”

Heyward was checked out by Braves doctor Joe Chandler and by a Rockies consultant at the team hotel, and told he needed to go to the hospital for tests. Soon after he arrived at Rose Medical Center, he was told he needed surgery.

“Me and Uggs (Dan Uggla) were at dinner,” Freeman said, “and I got a text (from Heyward) that said he had to go to the hospital to run tests on him. And about an hour later he told me he had to get his appendix taken out. It was quick. All of a sudden he was like, ‘I’ve got to get my appendix out.’ And I said, when’s that happening? And he said, ‘10 minutes.’”

The rest period following appendix removal was reduced with the advent of the laparascopic procedure, which is less invasive than the traditional open appendectomy.

Gonzalez said that Heyward would return to Atlanta in a day or two after doctors tell him it’s safe to fly. The Braves finish their series in Colorado on Wednesday and conclude a three-city trip with a three-game series at Detroit starting Friday.

It’s been a rough April for Heyward, who has a league-worst .121 average (7-for-58) with two homers, five RBIs and a .261 on-base percentage and .259 slugging percentage. The 2012 Gold Glove winner has continued to draw praise from coaches and Gonzalez for his work habits, hustle and defense.

While Heyward is out, Gonzalez said the Braves prefer to keep Justin Upton in left field rather than move the major league home-run leader back to right field, his former position with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

“We talked it over with the coaches,” Gonzalez said. “Both of those guys, Reed and Schafer, are above-average defenders. Justin’s doing a great job in left field. We didn’t want to move him back for 10 or 12 days when he’s getting used to that left-field position. So we’ll just leave him there.”

Gonzalez also said the Braves had not discussed the possibility of playing catcher Evan Gattis some games in left field, a position he played some at Double-A last season and during spring training.

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