Heyward starts rehab assignment, could return early next week

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Heyward starts rehab assignment, could return early next week

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Jason Getz
6'5" tall Atlanta Braves outfielder Jason Heyward stands still as 5'9" tall Gwinnett Braves outfielder Jose Constanza jumps to high-five Heyward before their game.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Two-and-a-half weeks after having an appendectomy, Braves right fielder Jason Heyward began a minor league rehab assignment Thursday and could be back with the Braves early next week.

He went by going 0-for-5 with three strikeouts and a walk for Triple-A Gwinnett in a 14-9 loss to Pawtucket on Thursday at Coolray Field.

After serving as designated hitter in his first game back, Heyward will likely move to right field Friday when Gwinnett starts a weekend series against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in Pennsylvania. Manager Fredi Gonzalez said the earliest Heyward might rejoin the Braves was during the three-game series that starts Monday at Arizona.

“We’ll leave it up to him,” said Gonzalez, who smiled and added, “Today he calls Walk (hitting coach Greg Walker) and says, ‘guess who I faced first time back? A knuckleballer.’”

Journeyman knuckleballer Steven Wright had a 1.69 ERA in four Triple-A starts for Patucket before Thursday, despite having more walks (15) than strikeouts (14) in 16 innings. He lasted five innings Thursday and gave up six hits, four runs (three earned) and two walks with six strikeouts.

The loss was the 12th in a row for Gwinnett.

Heyward, who had an emergency appendectomy April 22 at Denver, will miss out hitting in one of his favorite ballparks. This is the Braves’ only visit of the season to San Francisco, where Heyward has a .395 average with six homers and 12 RBIs in 10 games at AT&T Park, with a .477 on-base percentage and an .895 slugging percentage that’s his highest at any place he’s played five or more games.

Since Heyward went down, Jordan Schafer and Reed Johnson have thrived while splitting right-field duties.

Schafer, who has also played some at the other two outfield positions, was 9-for-33 (.273) with a .455 on-base percentage in his past 14 games before Thursday, with a triple, a homer, 11 walks and three stolen bases in four attempts. Johnson was 7-for-23 (.304) with three doubles in his past 10 games.

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