Back with the Braves for the first time since his emergency appendectomy, right fielder Jason Heyward looked slimmer, moved gingerly around the clubhouse and said he was nowhere close to being able to swing a bat.
Heyward’s goal is to return to the lineup no later than the end of May but first, he has to return to normal.
“It feels like I could pull something,” Heyward said Monday, one week after undergoing surgery in Colorado. “Not that I will (but) it feels like if I do anything too quick, that’s what will happen.”
Heyward said still hasn’t lifted objects (though he admitted to picking up a bat a time or two) and plans to start normal activities in a week. Heyward said the fear of feeling as if he might pull something is a “mental thing.” The first step in recovery is doing everyday activities and then getting feedback from his body “to know that it won’t be bad.”
But Heyward said he plans to take his time because the risks of returning too soon include a pulled oblique muscle and a hernia.
“I don’t want any of those to happen,” he said. “My goal, I would like to say, (is back in action) no later than New York at the end of May. But, again, I have to wait for my body to tell me.”
Heyward is batting .121 with two home runs and five RBIs in 58 at-bats.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he’s not putting a timetable on Heyward’s return.
“It’s whenever he feels comfortable,” Gonzalez said. “I leave that up to the athletes and the trainers and the doctors. He may say that (end of May) and then all of a sudden, five days from now he wakes up and feels great. You never know.”
Heyward, 23, initially thought he was suffering from a stomach virus during the Braves’ series at Pittsburgh. He said at first, he felt general pain in his abdominal area but by Monday morning, it was acute pain in a smaller area.
“It felt like a lump on the lower right side and I thought, ‘OK, this is no longer a stomachache,’” Heyward said.
He said he appreciates the well wishes he’s received from fans but added the only scary part about the ordeal came during the time he wasn’t sure what was wrong with him.
“As soon as I knew it wasn’t a tumor, that was a relief,” Heyward said.
Beachy makes progress: Right-hander Brandon Beachy was encouraged by his second live batting practice session Sunday and how his elbow is responding, a key step in his comeback from “Tommy John” elbow reconstructive surgery. He threw in the indoor cages in Detroit. Hitters stood in and didn’t take swings, but he’s already seeing progress.
“It came out better,” Beachy said. “It was definitely a lot better yesterday than it was two days (before) in terms of velocity, just the crispness of everything.”
Beachy is scheduled to throw three or four more BP sessions before he can be cleared to begin a six-start minor league rehabilitation program. If all continues to go as planned, he’ll likely begin his rehab stint in mid-May and return sometime around the anniversary of his June 21, 2012, surgery.
Helping a friend: When Chipper Jones dropped by the Braves clubhouse Monday afternoon, it was not a surprise to see him draw a crowd of hitters into a conversation, including Dan Uggla, Tyler Pastornicky, Chris Johnson and, at one point, Heyward.
What might have been more surprising was when Nationals writers spotted Jones in the visiting video room working with former teammate and hunting buddy Adam LaRoche.
Nationals manager Davey Johnson saw Jones on the visiting side and informed Nats writers about the exchange afterward: “I said, ‘Get him feeling good and then I’ve got a couple more guys you can talk to.’”
LaRoche entered the series in a 0-26 slump. When asked about aiding the Nats, Jones said in a text message: “I will always help a close friend if he asks.”
McCann on track: Braves catcher Brian McCann played in his third rehabilitation game with Class-A Rome Monday. Gonzalez said McCann, who had shoulder surgery in October, is scheduled to play with Rome on Wednesday before finishing the week with Triple-A Gwinnett and then possibly re-joining the Braves next week.
Tipping his cap: A day after AL Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera hit a three-run home run off Cory Gearrin in Sunday’s Tigers victory over the Braves, Gonzalez said he wasn’t so much bothered by the pitch as impressed by Cabrera’s approach.
“This is how good Cabrera is,” Gonzalez said. “It’s a 3-0 count and most guys hit that home run which way, him being a right-handed hitter? To left field. … This is how good that son of a gun is. On a 3-0 count, he went opposite field, went bam, and he hit it like a left-handed pull hitter. How many times do you see a 3-0 ball hit that way?”