Heyward impactful in leadoff spot

Jason Heyward would’ve preferred to stay in the fifth spot in the Braves batting order instead of moving back to leadoff a week ago, but manager Fredi Gonzalez thinks he’s the best option on a team that lacks a prototypical No. 1 hitter.

The big right fielder demonstrated part of what Gonzalez likes about him in the leadoff spot Monday when he homered to start the Braves’ 7-3 win against the Pirates, the third time he’s done that to start a game this season.

Heyward still believes he can do more to influence a game from the middle of the order.

“I feel like it’s harder from the leadoff spot, for me,” he said after Monday’s win. “There’s less moving runners over and less sac-fly situations, all those things.”

But he also realizes he can have a bit impact from the leadoff spot.

“When I’m able to, it’s awesome. Because the guys feed off of it,” he said. “It’s just kind of good to get the ball rolling. Get that immediate pressure on the (opposing team).”

Andrelton Simmons followed Heyward’s homer by hitting one himself, making it the fifth time in franchise history that the Braves started a game with consecutive homers. Simmons was asked what it mean for the team to see Heyward lead off with a long ball.

“We’re winning,” he said. “We’re winning right away. I mean, that’s what he brings to the table – he brings speed, he brings some power. He’s been doing a great job at leadoff for us. We struggled a little bit doing that, and he’s filling that spot … we need it right now.”