If you follow the Atlanta Braves, then you know that Jason Heyward has been on the DL since being hit in the jaw with a Jonathan Niese fastball on Aug. 21. The pitch fractured Heyward’s jaw in two places. You also know that he’s been progressing well, and engaging in some baseball-related activities lately that have fans optimistic to see Jason back at some point before the season is over.
Almost a week ago, Heyward started tossing the ball around and getting a bit of exercise. Kevin McAlpin tweeted about that:
— Kevin McAlpin (@KevinMcAlpin) September 3, 2013
Earlier today, it was reported by McAlpin again that Jason had the rubber bands removed from his jaw…
Jason Heyward had his rubber bands removed and was fitted for a mouth guard today. #Braves
— Kevin McAlpin (@KevinMcAlpin) September 9, 2013
Then Mark Bowman tweeted today that General Manager Frank Wren says that Jason Heyward will be engaging in some BP this coming Friday.
Wren said Heyward will be on the field taking BP with the team on Friday. Still too early to place a definitive timetable for his return.
— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) September 9, 2013
Jason Heyward’s doctors have cleared him now to begin eating solid foods, but the Atlanta Braves’ team chef has done an admirable job at preparing the kinds of non-solid foods, protein shakes, etc., that have helped to maintain his weight to near what it was before his injury. When Jason resumes light field activities this coming Friday, he will be wearing a mouth guard and special helmet with a face guard attached to help protect him.
Frank Wren plans to evaluate Heyward beginning on Friday and then make a decision as to when it will be best to send him down to the instructional league. Whenever that is, Heyward will be able to get some at-bats and see how he’s doing before any decision is made about a return to the Braves. When asked about how Heyward is doing so far, Wren said:
I think we were cautiously optimistic he would get back to baseball activity sometime in September. It’s progressing as we had hoped. I know it is progressing as he had hoped. I think everybody has the goal for him to get back for October. We’ll just continue to see how he progresses.
Although Jordan Schafer has done an admirable job filling in at leadoff for Heyward, I would love to see Jason back in that lineup spot sometime in September, or at least by the playoffs in October. The question is whether or not that’s a very realistic goal, and whether or not Jason can really be effective even if so. Paul Konerko was popped on the dome by an 85-mph pitch from Jeff Samardzija, and suffered no ill-effects from it, but he may be the exception to the rule. Similar plunks have affected other players negatively. David Wright was popped hard and it took quite awhile before he was back to form. Jeff Francoeur was plunked in the face by a Todd Wellemeyer pitch in 2008 and the injury definitely affected Jeff.
Will Jason Heyward be like a Konerko, or more like a Wright or Francoeur? It’s hard to say, but the good news is that Jason seems to be suffering no apparent ill-affects from the injury. Whether or not he’s nervous at-bat, or his timing is off, or any number of other factors sidetrack him from getting right back to form, we’ll have to wait and see. Frankly, a much longer delay in Jason’s getting back to form is more likely than our hopes that Jason will return back to the same form pre-injury. I hope he will, but I’m not sure it’s realistic. Like Wren, I’ll stick with guarded, cautious optimism.