Right fielder Jason Heyward was back in the lineup Monday after being replaced by outfielder Matt Diaz the day before because manager Fredi Gonzalez wanted the right-handed hitter to face Toronto left-hander Ricky Romero.
Diaz had two hits and scored a run while Romero was on the mound but was 0-for-3 the rest of the way.
Until Heyward shows he can hit left-handers, that’s the way it’s going to be. But until that happens, and while Heyward cycles through his inconsistent at-bats, he is going to make sure his defense and his baserunning supply the runs his bat isn’t.
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Heyward was running on his own when he stole third base in the 10th inning of Friday’s game versus the Blue Jays, drawing a throw that sailed past him and into left field. He came home with the winning run.
That’s just the kind of situation Gonzalez trusts him to read and react to. And now Heyward has a savvy partner for those moments in rookie shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who saw that Heyward had a good jump, so he took the pitch — the slider he was expecting — instead of swinging at it.
Heyward also scored what was then a go-ahead run on a balk in the sixth inning, with Simmons at first base. It comes as no surprise to the Braves that Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar wasn’t paying attention to second base, which Simmons saw immediately. His steal attempt caused the balk that brought Heyward home.
The point is that Heyward doesn’t have to be hitting to be making an impact and be responsible for team wins. Gonzalez was already deflecting scrutiny of Heyward’s batting numbers before his baserunning heroics Friday and his lunging catches on Saturday. He made all three outs in the Blue Jays’ seventh, one of them a belly slide.
Heyward values runs saved as much as runs driven in; a run is a run. A great catch feels as good as a home run;. Crash landing on his chest doesn’t bother him.
“You take a run away,” he says, “it’s the same. I don’t get caught up in either moment.”
Heyward didn’t have any of those moments in Monday’s 3-0 loss to the Yankees. He got one of the Braves’ five hits, a single, but couldn’t haul in Raul Ibanez’s 10th home run of the season.
–RHP Randall Delgado walked a career-high six batters and threw 110 pitches in his five innings. He got another hit, a single in the third inning, to raise his batting average to .300 (6 for 20).
–RHP Tim Hudson threw 25 pitches in a bullpen session Monday afternoon and pronounced himself ready to start in Wednesday’s game versus the Yankees. Hudson was scratched from Sunday’s start versus the Blue Jays because of left ankle soreness caused by bone spurs. Manager Fredi Gonzalez hasn’t yet decided how he’ll re-slot the rotation after Thursday’s scheduled off day.
–RHP Cory Gearrin was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett to fill the hole in the bullpen created when RHP Kris Medlen was sent there to stretch out as a starter. The Braves have been down a reliever while maneuvering around the issues that have limited the playing time of C Brian McCann (flu), C David Ross (groin), 1B Freddie Freeman (blurry vision) and INF Jack Wilson (unspecified minor leg issue). Gearrin pitched two scoreless innings, the sixth and seventh.
–RHP Julio Teheran was optioned back to Triple-A Gwinnett after Sunday’s spot start versus the Blue Jays, as planned. Teheran lasted only 4 1/3 innings and gave up four runs in the 12-4 loss, but his curveball was effective. That’s something the Braves have wanted him to work on. The rest was the result of a young pitcher hitting that fifth-inning hurdle. “I got a little bit too excited because I wanted to win the game,” he said. “I got a little out of control.”
–RHP Peter Moylan, rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery, is starting to get the feel of his release point on his off-speed pitches. He signed a minor league contract with the Braves in the offseason; there is no timetable for his return.
QUOTE TO NOTE
“Is it Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain? Maybe not. But it’s good enough.” — Manager Fredi Gonzalez on the Braves’ rotation.