April 18, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Atlanta Braves right fielder Jason Heyward (22) at the batting cage before playing the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Late Monday night, the Atlanta Braves announced that right-fielder Jason Heyward underwent an emergency appendectomy while in Denver awaiting the Atlanta series with the Rockies.
This is the latest injury/illness to sideline a Braves star, but with Freddie Freeman set to return to the lineup on Tuesday (or whenever the weather allows), that will soften the blow a bit. Preliminary reports have Heyward sidelined between 1 and 3 weeks, and I would expect a 15-day DL stint at minimum, for the simple fact of the availability of that roster spot.
Heyward has struggled mightily this season (.121/.261/.259 with 2 home runs), but this shouldn’t have a big impact on his long-term performance. I firmly believe he’ll break out of this slump in a hurry, but this setback should push that turnaround a few weeks later.
In the meantime, expect Fredi Gonzalez to use Reed Johnson against lefties, and potentially Jordan Schafer against right-handed pitching. There was a rumor (started by ESPN’s Buster Olney) of potential Evan Gattis use in the outfield, but I don’t see a reason for that unless Brian McCann returns before Heyward.
The Braves have a scheduled double-header (3:10 PM & 8:40 PM ET) against a left-handed starter (Jeff Francis) and a right-handed starter (Jon Garland), so any lineup construction questions should be answered on Tuesday. Stay tuned.