VIERA, Fla. – Jason Heyward and “sore shoulder” in the same sentence causes some consternation among Braves fans, many of whom remember a shoulder injury undermined the right fielder’s second season in 2011.
But after Heyward was scratched from the lineup Monday against Washington for a sore right shoulder, team officials made it clear this was a minor thing and that he was rested strictly as a cautionary measure with opening day still three weeks away.
“It’s nothing major at all,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said. “It’s fine.”
When Heyward showed up at camp early Monday and said his shoulder was a little stiff, Gonzalez told him to skip the 75-minute road trip to face the Nationals. Heyward stayed back at camp in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., and took batting practice with rehabbing catcher Brian McCann and other Braves not on the trip.
“Little sore in his right shoulder,” Gonzalez said. “Just a precaution. I think it’s just fatigue, just a little soreness. I didn’t want to take a chance, so he’s going to stay back and hit some balls off a tee…. I didn’t want it to turn into something major.”
Heyward ended up taking batting practice rather than merely hitting balls off a tee.
After hitting .277 with 18 homers, 72 RBIs and .849 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 142 games during outstanding rookie season in 2010, Heyward was slowed for much of the 2011 season by a sore shoulder and saw his numbers plummet to a .227 average with 14 homers, 42 RBIs and .708 OPS.
He came back with his healthiest and best overall season in 2012, hitting .269 with 27 homers, 82 RBIs and an .814 OPS, along with a career-high 21 stolen bases.
Jordan Schafer replaced him in right field Monday, with Justin Upton in left field and B.J. Upton in center. Gonzalez has kept his regular outfielders in the lineup together all spring, sometimes having one of them serve as designated hitter.
Beginning Monday and for the rest of spring, the Braves planned to let their pitchers hit instead of using a DH for most or all remaining spring-training games.