Jason Heyward figured he had something worse than a stomach virus when he couldn’t lay on his side late Monday afternoon. A few hours later, the Braves right fielder had an emergency appendectomy at a Denver hospital.
The laprascopic procedure was successful, and manager Fredi Gonzalez said Heyward should be recovered in two weeks, after a stint on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to Sunday.
“I went over (to the hospital) this morning and saw him, spent about 20 minutes with him,” Gonzalez said Tuesday morning, before the Braves’ doubleheader against the Rockies at Coors Field. “He was in good spirits. Beat up a little bit, as you would expect, from the surgery. But give him a couple of weeks, and he should be ready to go.”
Utility man Tyler Pastornicky was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett to fill Heyward’s roster spot and arrived at Coors Field at around noon, more than an hour before the doubleheader opener. Pastornicky hit .351 with six doubles and a homer in 18 games for Gwinnett.
Gonzalez said Jordan Schafer and Reed Johnson would get the most playing time in right field while Heyward’s out.
Recovery from an appendectomy typically takes 2-3 weeks for baseball players, although Matt Holliday of the Cardinals and Adam Dunn of the White Sox returned from laparascopic appendectomies in about one week in 2011.
Gonzalez and assistant hitting coach Scott Fletcher said Heyward began to feel ill during the weekend series at Pittsburgh, but thought it was just be a virus. His condition worsened Monday, when the Braves spent several hours at Coors Field before the series opener was snowed out.
“He didn’t sound good,” said first baseman Freddie Freeman, who talked with Heyward after he got back to the team hotel and tried to rest. “He said he could only lay on his back, he couldn’t lay on his side. He said he was feeling terrible.”
Heyward was checked by Braves physician Joe Chandler and by a Rockies consultant at the team hotel and told he needed to go to the hospital for tests. Soon after he arrived at Rose Medical Center, he was told he needed surgery.
“Me and Uggs (Dan Uggla) were at dinner,” Freeman said, “and I got a text (from Heyward) that said he had to go to the hospital to run tests on him. And about an hour later he told me he had to get his appendix taken out. It was quick. All of a sudden he was like, ‘I’ve got to get my appendix out.’ And I said, when’s that happening? And he said, ‘10 minutes.’”
It’s been a rough April for Heyward, who has a league-worst .121 average (7-for-58) with two homers, five RBIs and a .261 on-base percentage and .259 slugging percentage. The 2012 Gold Glove winner has continued to draw praise from coaches Gonzalez for his work habits, hustle and defense.
J-Up to stay in LF: Gonzalez said the Braves prefer to keep Justin Upton in left field rather than move the major league home-run leader to right, Upton’s former position with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“Both of those guys, Reed and Schafer, are above-average defenders,” Gonzalez said. “Justin’s doing a great job in left field. We didn’t want to move him back for 10 or 12 days when he’s getting used to that left-field position.”
Gonzalez also said the Braves hadn’t discussed playing catcher Evan Gattis some in left field, a position he played at Double-A last season and a few times during spring training.
R. Johnson 4-for-4: In his first game filling in for Heyward, Johnson went 4-for-4 with a career-high three doubles in a 4-3 win in Tuesday’s doubleheader opener.
“We know Reed can play,” said Justin Upton, whose 10th homer gave the Braves a 1-0 lead in the first inning. “It’s good to have a guy like Reed who can step in and play multiple games in a row, which he’s going to have to do.”
Johnson’s four hits matched a career high and doubled his previous season total. He was 2-for-16 before Tuesday, when he made his third start and raised his average from .125 to .300.
Schafer started in right field in the second game Tuesday.
Uggla homers, sits: Uggla hit a two-run homer to straightaway center field in the second inning of the doubleheader opener, then struck out his next three at-bats and was out of the lineup for the nightcap.
The move had nothing to do with the three strikeouts, but instead was Gonzalez doing what he said Monday that he planned to do: not play Uggla for both games of a doubleheader after he missed Sunday’s game with a strained calf.
“Saturday he came out with tightness in his calf,” Gonzalez said. “I think it would be not very smart on my part to play him 18 innings first time back, in 20-degree weather. So I’ll play (Ramiro) Pena.