Heyward is learning like every 21-year-old
Over the past few days there has been a lot of discussion about how some of Jason Heyward’s teammates feel he needs to learn the difference between playing with pain and playing with injury.
With the Braves scuffling in his absence and two MRI exams showing nothing more than inflammation around Heyward’s right shoulder, this is quite honestly an expected reaction.
Teammates have questioned the severity of some of the ailments that have caused Chipper Jones to miss games in the past. It’s simply part of the baseball culture. Now Jones finds himself on the other side of the fence, having talked to The Atlanta-Journal Constitution yesterday about the need for Heyward to realize the value he brings the lineup even when he is not quite 100 percent healthy.
Even though the MRIs showed no structural damage, none of us can truly know exactly how Heyward has felt on some of those mornings when he was woke up and found it hard to simply lift his left arm. He told a friend Tuesday that for the first time since the second week of Spring Training, he can honestly say that he feels at least 80 percent healthy.
Heyward’s choice to remain relatively private has probably hurt him in this situation. If he provided play-by-play of his progress, there might be less reason to doubt the severity of his shoulder injury. But this all part of the live-and-learn process experienced by every 21-year-old kid.
At the end of the day, it should not be forgotten that Heyward is still just 21-years-old. He certainly has plenty to learn and some could argue that he did last year, when he played the season’s final four months with a left thumb injury.
This may have been a product of something he learned in 2009, when Double-A Mississippi manager Phil Wellman sat him down and talked to him about the need to learn how to decipher the difference between pain and injury.
At the same time, Heyward’s decision to get healthy this year and not be the lineup detriment he was in May, might have been a product of what he learned while struggling to consistently produce during last year’s second half.
With and Without Heyward: The Braves averaged 4.2 runs per game through May 10 — the date Heyward’s sore right shoulder became a public issue. They have averaged 3.1 runs per game in the 24 games that have followed.
As mentioned earlier this week, you can point your finger at new hitting coach Larry Parrish if you want. But at the end of the day there isn’t a team that would have continued to produce respectable numbers while getting next to nothing from two of their middle-of-the-lineup threats – Heyward and Dan Uggla.
Heyward produced respectable numbers through the season’s first two weeks and then went on one of his dominant tears near the end of April. But he hit just .098 (4-for-41) with one extra-base hit in the 17 games he played in May.
Odd win with two hits: We obviously saw something unique last night, when the Braves beat the Marlins while recording just two hits – including Martin Prado’s ninth-inning single.
Dating back to the start of 1946 the Braves have been held to two hits or fewer in 131 games. Last night marked just the 17th time they proved victorious in one of these games.
The previous occurrence came during a 1-0 win over the Marlins on Sept. 25, 2004. Mike Hampton earned the win. DeWayne Wise produced the lone RBI and Chris Reitsma earned the save. Obviously that game was unique in more ways than one.
Still after congratulating Tommy Hanson and three relievers last night, there wasn’t much reason for the Braves to feel good about anything else they did last night.
When the Braves recorded just two hits in an April 13 loss to the Marlins, they could understandably tip their caps toward Josh Johnson and simply look forward to the next day. After recording just one hit — Alex Gonzalez’s fourth-inning home run – in the six innings Brad Hand produced in his Major League debut last night, the Braves had nothing but more reason to be concerned about their offense.
Yeah, we often hear about how tough it is to face a young pitcher teams have not seen in the past. But last time I checked, Hand isn’t Julio Teheran and as Teheran has learned this year, debuts usually do not go as smoothly as the one enjoyed by Hand, who had posted a 3.53 ERA and allowed opponents to hit .234 against him while pitching for Double-A Jacksonville this year.