Heyward in lineup after 4-game absence for back strain

SAN DIEGO – Right Fielder Jason Heyward was back in the Braves lineup Saturday night against the Padres, after missing four consecutive games recovering from a low-back strain.

Heyward was given clearance to resume baseball activities after being examined Friday night by Braves orthopedist Marvin Royster. After testing the back with some hitting, running and defensive drills Saturday afternoon, Heyward told manager Fredi Gonzalez he was ready to play.

“It seems like it’s longer than what it really has been,” Gonzalez said of Heyward’s four-game absence. “When you’re missing a player of his caliber, an impact type of guy, seems like four days is a month.”

The Braves lost the first four games of the eight-game trip without Heyward. They were swept in three against the Dodgers and hammered 10-1 in Friday’s series opener against the Padres, who out-hit the Braves 20-4.

After finishing their three-game series against the Padres on Sunday afternoon, the Braves have an off day Monday before a two-game series at Seattle, then another off day Thursday. Gonzalez hoped the schedule would allow Heyward to play four consecutive games without any difficulties.

“Two games and then the off day (Monday), two games and then the off day (Thursday),” Gonzalez said. “Maybe that’ll get him over the hump.”