LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — A day after he was scratched from the lineup for a sore shoulder, Jason Heyward said it was nothing to be concerned about and played like it Tuesday against St. Louis. He went 1-for-2 with a groundout and an opposite-field double in three innings.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez brought it substitutes to start the fourth inning in place of Heyward and the Upton brothers outfielders, who will make the 2-1/2-hour bus trip along with the rest of Atlanta’s position players to Jupiter, Fla., on Wednesday for a night game against the Marlins. Most will stay for Thursday’s game against the Cardinals.
Heyward’s right (non-throwing) shoulder was a little tight Monday from the impact of a diving catch Sunday, and Heyward said it hurt later when he one-handed a follow-through swinging at a changeup. Gonzalez wanted to play it safe and rested the big right fielder instead of having him make Monday’s trip to play the Nationals.
Heyward stayed at camp Monday, hit balls in the covered batting cage, then took it to the field to see if he’d have any problems with a regular batting-practice session. He did not.
“I got stretched out, heated up, and it felt better,” he said. “I went to hit in the cage and it felt really good. I didn’t want to stop there.”
He had no problems taking batting practice Monday and said wasn’t sore Tuesday.
“It feels even better than yesterday,” he said after hitting in the batting cage before Tuesday’s game. “Less soreness, less tightness in it. I’m playing.”
That’s a relief for Braves fans who remember 2011, when Heyward’s second season in the majors was slowed by a nagging right-shoulder injury. After hitting .277 an .849 on-base-plus-slugging percentage as a rookie in 2010, he hit .227 with a .708 OPS in 2011. He came back with his healthiest season in 2012, hitting .269 with an .814 OPS and career-highs of 27 homers, 82 RBIs and 21 stolen bases.
Heyward said this situation felt nothing like the shoulder injury in 2011.
“That was actually swinging — I felt a pop in (batting practice),” he said. “This time I just landed on it. I could have played (Monday). Just making sure. But it’s all good.”