On Wednesday, Heyward had talked about Freeman’s rapid ascent as a rookie. “I’m definitely proud of him,” Heyward said. “He’s one of my best friends. Seeing him do well is nothing new for me. I’ve seen him do that for a long time. I’m not shocked. I’m glad to see his hard work paying off.”
Now that Heyward is healthy, the Braves hope the two strapping sluggers can have plenty more days like Thursday.
“Sometimes we forget that [Freeman] is 21,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “We’ve got a 21-year-old there, and a 21-year-old [Heyward] in right field, and a 23-year-old closer [Craig Kimbrel]. So it’s fun to see those guys perform in this type of environment.”
Heyward was slowed earlier by shoulder inflammation that put him on the disabled list for three weeks. His first half has been a far cry from his torrid start in 2010, when he was elected to start in the All-Star game (he missed it with a thumb injury).
Heyward was Sporting News’ major league rookie of the year and runner-up to San Francisco’s Buster Posey for the writers’ NL rookie award. This season, he has only one multi-game stretch — the final week of April — where he resembled the slugging on-base machine he was for much of 2010.
After batting .277 with 18 homers, 72 RBIs, a .393 on-base percentage and .456 slugging percentage in 142 games as a rookie, Heyward is batting .233/.323/.416 with nine homers and 22 RBIs in 66 games.
“I’m just looking forward to going into the next half,” Heyward said Wednesday. “It’s been kind of an up-and-down first half. But you can’t control that. Can’t get that back. It’s part of the learning process for me, knowing when to play with [an injury], and when not to.”
Kimbrel gets record
Kimbrel surpassed the major-league rookie record for saves before an All-Star break, and before much longer he could own more-significant marks.
The Alabama native pitched a perfect ninth inning Thursday against Colorado for his 27th save, breaking the rookie first-half mark of 26 set by Boston’s Jonathan Papelbon before the 2006 All-Star break.
“It’s pretty cool to say I have the record,” Kimbrel said. “But I wouldn’t have had it if it weren’t for the team. We have a winning baseball team, and if we didn’t go out there and win as many times as we do, I wouldn’t have a chance to get the saves. It’s just as much [an award] for them as it is for me.”
Kimbrel needs 10 saves to set a new NL single-season rookie record, and 14 for the major league record for rookies. Rangers closer Neftali Feliz, a former Braves prospect, set the major league rookie record with 40 saves in 2010, and Todd Worrell holds the NL rookie record with 36 saves for St. Louis in 1986.