Heyward still impressing

Despite the fact that he struck out for the first time this year, Jason Heyward enjoyed another productive day during Saturday afternoon’s 3-0 loss to the Astros at Kissimmee.

When Heyward struck out against Jeff Fulchino in the third inning, it marked the first time he had done so in 14 Grapefruit League at-bats.  But two innings later the 20-year-old right fielder showed off his legs while hustling into second base with a double to right field.

More impressive was the patience that Heyward showed when he spit on Roy Oswalt’s 3-2 breaking ball in the first inning.  Through his first 15 plate appearances this year, the Braves phenom has hit .400 (4-for-10) with two doubles, drawn four walks and damaged the baseball that hit him after being thrown by Pirates pitcher Charlie Morton on Friday. 

Braves Chairman and CEO Terry McGuirk returned to Florida on Saturday morning and said that everywhere he goes in Atlanta people are talking about Heyward. 

While there are those who may still argue that the club could benefit financially by sending him to the Minors to begin the season, the club continues to provide no reason that they will go this route unless he gives them a sense he is not ready for the Majors. 

So far, that hasn’t happened and if you want to argue this from a financial standpoint, he is the one guy in the organization that could influence the attendance totals at Turner Field. 

Medlen’s control:  Kris Medlen worked two scoreless innings on Saturday afternoon, dented the backstop with a couple of wayward warmup tosses and kept the Astros off balance while throwing 15 of his 35 pitches for strikes. 

Medlen issued consecutive walks to load the bases in the second inning with nobody out in the second inning and then induced a popout before escaping unscathed with a double-play groundout.

“With the bases loaded, I just decided I would grip it and throw it,” Medlen said. 

Medlen said that he over-corrected the delivery of his four-seamer after it cut on him a couple of times in the bullpen. After developing a two-seamer last year, he went away from throwing the traditional fastball as often as he had in the past.

“I made pitches when I had to,” Medlen said. “It’s Spring and it’s early and my arm feels fine.  It was just the over correction and the whole mental part of it.”

While Medlen has a bullpen spot that will be secured as long as he has a decent Spring, Manny Acosta is still a part of that bullpen battle that has been altered with the early struggles incurred by Jesse Chavez. 

Acosta seemed to aid his cause on Saturday, allowing one unearned run and recording three strikeouts in two innings. 

“You can’t throw any better than that,” Cox said. “He was really impressive today.”

Another pitcher that caught Cox’s eyes was the hard-throwing Kyle Cofield, who allowed a hit and recorded a strikeout in his one scoreless inning.  The 23-year-old right-hander will quickly rise to the Majors if he consistently shows the kind of control that he did against the Astros.

As you may remember, earlier this week an American League scout said that Cofield reminded him of John Smoltz.

Tommy Hanson will be back on the mound tomorrow afternoon when the Braves host the Astros.  Peter Moylan highlights the list of relievers scheduled to appear.     

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