David Hale excited to join Braves bullpen

David Hale has come a long way from the days when he used to see Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez or pitching coach Roger McDowell at a supermarket and hesitate to even approach them. Now he’s on their pitching staff.

The Marietta native, graduate of The Walker School and neighbor to both Gonzalez and McDowell in Cobb County recently earned his first major-league call-up and a September cup of coffee.

“I’ve got to put him in,” said Gonzalez, who lives in a nearby subdivision to the Hales. “I might get stuff in the front yard.”

Hale was 6-9 with a 3.22 ERA in 22 games (20 starts) for Gwinnett. He had 10 quality starts in 14 outings while putting up a 2.26 ERA after returning from a month out to rest a sore shoulder. He already was on the 40-man roster and gave the Braves reason to add him to their bullpen and take a closer look.

“It’s a reward for a good season, an extra arm and a chance to see what he’s got for next year, too,” said Gonzalez, whose only immediate plans were for Hale to pitch in relief.

Hale was packing up his Gwinnett apartment Wednesday evening after the end of the Triple-A season and heading to his parents’ house when he got the call from assistant general manager Bruce Manno.

“I called my dad up; my mom started crying, they were all excited,” said Hale, who grew up a Braves fan and remembers watching David Justice homer in Game 6 of the 1995 World Series, when Hale was 8. “She probably still is actually.”

Hale figured his next move would be to start getting ready for winter ball in Venezuela, something the Braves had planned for him to do.

“If I can use this as my winter-ball time …,” Hale said with a smile. “Then I would be very happy to stay in the States.”

Hale is used to busy offseasons. He finished his economics degree from Princeton by going back for fall semesters after his first two minor league seasons. He graduated in 2011. He might have joined some of his classmates in a career in finance if not for his pitching prowess.

Instead the former third-round draft pick in 2009 found himself wandering out to the field Friday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park.

“It’s beautiful,” said Hale, 25. “It’s incredible seeing three, four tiers of seats compared to what we play in in the minor leagues.”

He was only about an hour’s train ride from Princeton.

“I think it’s nice to start on the road, kind of get the nerves out, then head home,” Hale said. “Either way, I’d love to step on that mound.”

Injury updates: Jason Heyward got another good report from a visit to the oral surgeon Friday as he continues to recover from a broken jaw, Gonzalez said.

Heyward did not travel with the Braves to Philadelphia, but if he has another good doctor visit Monday, Gonzalez said he could join the Braves on Monday evening or Tuesday afternoon in Miami to continue his workouts.

Heyward was cleared Tuesday to do light hitting off the tee and playing catch. He has been taking swings in a new batting helmet with a protective attachment to guard his jaw.

The Braves haven’t established a timetable for his return, but hope Heyward can get at-bats during instructional league which begins Sept. 16 (games start Sept. 23), with the idea that he come back for some major league at-bats before the regular season ends.

“We never put a date on it,” Gonzalez said. “I got my fingers crossed that we can get him back, but it’s whenever he’s ready.”

  • Brandon Beachy played some light catch Friday, his first action since Aug. 20, when he felt elbow discomfort and the Braves shut him to rest another bout of elbow inflammation. He made about 30 throws from 30-40 feet. The Braves will see how he progresses before mapping out a throwing program.
  • Reliever Jordan Walden played some catch on flat ground as well Friday. Gonzalez said he felt good and might throw a bullpen session before this seven-day trip is over, but he's not yet close to returning from a groin strain.
  • Jordan Schafer was out of the lineup Friday night, but it wasn't because of his quadriceps bruise. Schafer, who was scratched from the lineup Wednesday, said after back-to-back days off he felt fine. Gonzalez planned to start B.J. Upton in the leadoff spot against left-hander Cliff Lee all along.