Braves right fielder Jason Heyward was activated from the disabled list and started against the Dodgers on Friday night, giving manager Fredi Gonzalez his full projected lineup for the first time this season.
Heyward hit second in his first appearance since his appendix was removed April 22. While Heyward was recovering, catcher Brian McCann returned from offseason right shoulder surgery on the Braves’ 10-game trip that ended on Wednesday.
”We’ve played 40 games and it’s the first time we’ve had the lineup we talked about all winter,” Gonzalez said.
McCann missed 30 games and Heyward missed 22 games. Heyward was hitting .121 with two homers in 17 games before the emergency surgery.
Heyward was cleared after hitting .300 with six RBI in six games in his injury rehabilitation stint with Triple-A Gwinnett.
”The last thing for me was I stole a base and slid head-first,” Heyward said. ”I know that’s not ideal, but everything was fine.”
Braves pitchers Tim Hudson and Kris Medlen celebrated Heyward’s return by wearing T-shirts which read ”Heyward Owns Atlanta.”
Heyward set career highs with 27 homers, 82 RBIs and 21 stolen bases while hitting .269 in 2012. His return adds depth to the lineup. Slumping center fielder B.J. Upton is hitting eighth.
Gonzalez said he doesn’t plan to leave Upton, hitting only .145 following a 3-for-27 road trip, at the bottom of the batting order.
”It’s only one game,” Gonzalez said. ”As soon as we get that bat going again, he’s not going to hit eighth much longer.”
Right-hander Jordan Walden was placed on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation to clear a spot for Heyward. Walden’s last appearance was on Saturday, so Gonzalez said the reliever may not spend much time on the disabled list.
Gonzalez said Walden threw on the side on Friday.
”It felt good, but it just didn’t come out the way he wanted it to,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez said he and pitching coach Roger McDowell ”have kind of been nursing” Walden this week.
Gonzalez said he couldn’t continue to have Walden at less than full availability once the decision was made to have a six-man bullpen following Heyward’s return. The Braves had a 12-man pitching staff, including seven relievers, before Friday’s moves.