Seven weeks into the season, the Braves finally sent out the starting lineup they had projected all winter.
Jason Heyward was activated from the disabled list Friday after missing 22 games following appendectomy surgery. The Braves placed reliever Jordan Walden on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation to clear room for Heyward on the roster.
Brian McCann, who made his return from shoulder surgery last week in Cincinnati, was set to make his first appearance in a home game this season Friday night.
“I’m happy to be playing the game I love again with the group of teammates I love and ready to have some fun,” Heyward said.
Heyward’s teammates had a little fun when they discovered what was in the box Nike delivered to Heyward’s locker Friday – T-shirts that said “Heyward owns Atlanta.” Teammates like Tim Hudson and Kris Medlen were sporting them under their batting practice uniforms when the clubhouse opened Friday afternoon.
Heyward was hitting only .121 in 17 games when he went on the DL, but he said he’s used the time away to his advantage.
“I looked at video,” said Heyward, who went 6-for-20 (.300) with a double and six RBIs in six games for Triple-A Gwinnett on a rehabilitation assignment. “I feel a lot better than I have in a while at the plate. I know that doesn’t mean go press a button and tonight four hits but it’s about wanting to be back to where you were mentally and thinking the game reacting the game, not worrying about anything injury-wise. And I feel like I’ve done that.”
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said Walden’s shoulder starting bothering him after his outing Saturday in San Francisco. He hadn’t pitched since, so the DL stint will be retroactive to May 11. He would be eligible to return Monday May 27 in Toronto.
The Braves had planned to go with a six-man bullpen upon Heyward’s return, Gonzalez wanted to make sure the six relievers were healthy. They’ll try to get through this six-game homestand short-handed.
“Having five guys available and try to baby one guy doesn’t really make much sense,” Gonzalez said.
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