Heyward on DL, though MRI checks out
Braves feel rest will help rookie outfielder's left thumb heal
ATLANTA -- Jason Heyward may simply be a bystander if he is elected to this year's All-Star Game. But by resting over the course of the next couple of weeks, the Braves right fielder hopes to regain the form that he had when he spent this season's first two months proving to be one of the game's most exciting players.
After reviewing the results of an MRI exam that was performed Monday morning, Braves physician Dr. Gary Lourie found no structural damage in Heyward's left thumb. Still, with the understanding that their 20-year-old right fielder needs to rest the ailment, the Braves opted to place him on the 15-day disabled list.
Matt Diaz will be activated from the disabled list on Tuesday to fill the vacated roster spot. Coincidently, Diaz has been sidelined because of a right thumb infection since May 14, the same day that Heyward injured his left thumb with a headfirst slide into third base.
"It's a deep bone bruise," Braves manager Bobby Cox said in reference to Heyward. "That's all it is. The only way it's going to get better is to get better."
Heyward would be eligible to be activated from the disabled list during the All-Star break. He received a cortisone shot on Monday and his thumb will be immobilized for six days by a cast that will be fitted on Tuesday.
"We're doing the best thing, I believe," Heyward said. "It's a good opportunity to get it done, get the rest in, get the strength back and be able to come back in the second half."
If he holds his current position, Heyward will be the second-youngest rookie to be elected to start an All-Star Game. While he might not be cleared to play, there's a chance he would still travel to Anaheim to participate in the festivities surrounding the All-Star Game, which will be held on July 13 at Angel Stadium.
Heyward also feels there may be a need for him to spend those days on a Minor League rehab assignment. The Braves open the second half of the season on July 15, and the young outfielder hopes to be in the lineup that night against the Brewers.
"Whatever [Major League Baseball] says they would like to have happen," said Heyward. "If I can go and give thanks to the fans by showing up, then I would like to. If MLB says we respect what the Braves want for Jason and they want him to rehab and play some games before he comes back, then I'm hoping to do that also."
After injuring his thumb, Heyward started 38 of the next 39 games played by the Braves. Even though he hasn't had an at-bat since Friday night, he still exited Turner Field on Monday night feeling some discomfort.
"I haven't been banging it up or making it worse," Heyward said. "But it does still hurt, and I do still feel the pain in it."
The inability to grip a bat with his left hand has severely hindered the left-handed slugger's production. In the first 46 games of his career, he hit .301 with 10 homers, 35 strikeouts and a 1.017 OPS.
During the 99 at-bats he totaled in his past 25 games, he hit .172 with just one homer, 33 strikeouts and a .507 OPS. Heyward believes his struggles are a product of the mechanical adjustments he made while attempting to play through the pain.
"This is not a step backward," Heyward said. "It's going forward."
Kawakami to 'pen when Jurrjens returns
ATLANTA -- Kenshin Kawakami will be going to the bullpen when Jair Jurrjens is activated from the disabled list in time to start against the Nationals on Wednesday night. Braves manager Bobby Cox made this announcement after Monday night's win over the Nationals.
Jurrjens has been sidelined since April 29 with a strained left hamstring. While the Braves have told him he will not be 100 percent the remainder of this season, the 24-year-old right-hander said he realized improvement after each of the three Minor League rehab starts that he made this month.
The decision to move Kawakami to the bullpen wasn't too surprising. The Japanese right-hander, who is owed a little more than $10 million through the end of the 2011 season, went 1-9 with a 4.48 ERA in his 15 starts this year. His lone win came on Saturday, when he limited the Tigers to two hits and one run over seven innings.
While Kawakami has been victimized by a lack of run support, Kris Medlen gave the Braves reason to believe he was the better option to keep in the rotation. In the nine starts he has made since Jurrjens went on the disabled list, Medlen has gone 4-0 with a 3.40 ERA.
Wagner's ankle feeling much better
ATLANTA -- Having experienced more than 800 Major League appearances, Billy Wagner knows that his body isn't going to be cooperative on a daily basis. But the left ankle ailment that prevented the Braves' closer from pitching on Saturday seemed to have significantly improved by the time Monday arrived.
"It's sore, but I'm 38 years old," Wagner said. "If there ain't something that's sore, then something is wrong."
Wagner began experiencing some discomfort when he rolled his ankle during an appearance against the Rays two weeks ago. He needed just 10 pitches to register three strikeouts and notch his 400th career save Friday night. But when he attempted to warm up on Saturday, he informed manager Bobby Cox that he couldn't pitch.
The Braves diagnosed Wagner's ailment as a pinched nerve and gave him a cortisone shot Saturday night. The veteran closer said he has realized steady improvement over the past two days.
"They doctored my shoes to relieve some of the pressure," Wagner said. "I may look goofy running out there. Or I might just look the same."
Glaus shows loyalty with CWS pick
ATLANTA -- Braves first baseman Troy Glaus vividly remembers his final year of college at UCLA 13 years ago, when his Bruins advanced to the College World Series. Now, with UCLA facing South Carolina in a best-of-three championship series of this year's CWS, Glaus isn't shy about his prediction for the winner.
"I got to go with the Bruins," he said. "I haven't been paying much attention to it, but I got to go with the Bruins."
Glaus' 1997 squad was eliminated from the CWS in its opening two games, after losing to Miami and Mississippi, respectively.
"We lost two games in a row," he said. "We played well. We just got beat. When you're in college, it's the pinnacle of your career in college. I had a blast. Unfortunately, it was only about three or four days long."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.