KC@STL: Heyward rips a solo homer in the eighth

ATLANTA -- Jason Heyward returned to Turner Field on Monday feeling sore, fatigued and fortunate that members of the Braves medical staff took him to a Denver hospital last week before his appendix burst.

"I'm just glad I quit trying to tough something out," Heyward said. "If I didn't, then it could have been a lot worse."

After spending four days with the assumption that he was battling a stomach virus, Heyward grew concerned when abdominal pain prevented him from sleeping after the Braves arrived in Denver on April 21.

"I tried to lay on my side, couldn't do it," Heyward said. "I tried to lay on my other side, couldn't do it. If I laid on my back, it was OK. If I moved, it was hurting me for at least 30 minutes, regardless of what was going on. It felt like a lump on my right side. So I knew it was no longer a stomach ache."

Braves trainer Jeff Porter and longtime team doctor Joe Chandler examined Heyward the following morning and sent him to the emergency room at Rose Medical Center.

Heyward underwent a series of tests, including a CT scan that showed an enlarged appendix. His request to return to Atlanta was denied by doctors, who told him he needed to undergo an immediate appendectomy before his appendix burst.

One week later, Heyward is still feeling the effects of the 15-minute surgical procedure. His voice still sounds a little weak and he has not yet regained his normal sleep pattern. The 23-year-old right fielder is still moving around cautiously and obeying orders not to lift anything heavy, including his dog.

"It's easier to get up and down right now from the sitting-down position," Heyward said. "But after that, my body is still sensitive in the abdominal area. There's a feeling that I could pull something. Not that I will. But that is just the feeling if I try to do something too quick."

While Heyward has gripped a bat and watched video of his at-bats over the past week, he will not be permitted to do anything strenuous for at least another week. Once he regains some more strength and becomes more confident, he will gradually begin resuming baseball-related activities.

It is still too early for Heyward to set a definitive timetable for his return to Atlanta's lineup. But he is hoping to be back at least by the time the Braves play the Mets in New York from May 24-26.

"My goal is no later than New York at the end of May," Heyward said. "But again, I have to wait until my body tells me. If I can come back sooner, awesome. I hope it's not later than New York. But again, I have to do something to see how my body is going to react."

Fredi not overly concerned by high K rate

ATL@DET: Anibal strikes out 17 to set new Tigers mark

ATLANTA -- As the Braves struggled offensively throughout the disappointing 10-game road trip that concluded on Sunday night, weather and the schedule limited them to take batting practice on the field just four times.

After getting back to their homes a little after 3 a.m. ET on Monday, B.J. Upton, Freddie Freeman and Jordan Schafer caught a few hours of sleep and then came to Turner Field to take batting practice under the bright Atlanta sun.

"It's nice to get home and get some work in ourselves," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "When you're on the road, you can't get as much work done as you do at home."

While those three players were far from the only Braves who struggled during the 3-7 trip, they all could benefit from the extra work. Upton batted .167 (6-for-36) with 15 strikeouts on the trip, and Freeman hit .182 (4-for-22) after coming off the disabled list on April 23.

Schafer, who batted leadoff for the second straight night on Monday, hit .235 (4-for-17) and recorded a more encouraging .381 on-base percentage while playing in eight games during the trip.

"We just need to get consistent," Gonzalez said. "We've got Justin [Upton] and Chris Johnson and [Evan] Gattis hitting. We've just got to get some of the other guys hitting and showing us the numbers on the back of the baseball cards. That will come."

The Braves have lived up to the expectations of being a team that will strike out quite frequently. In fact, while striking out a National League high 224 times entering play Monday (their 25th game of the season), they might have actually exceeded the expected rate. The Reds ranked second in the NL with 212 strikeouts while playing two more games than Atlanta.

With their strikeout total, the Braves have broken the franchise record for the most strikeouts during the season's opening month (any games played in March and April). The 2006 team (192 strikeouts in 24 games) and 2011 teams (192 strikeouts in 28 games) had previously shared the highest total.

"I think the strikeouts are OK," Gonzalez said. "There are certain points of the game where they are not OK, and those are the ones that put a dagger in your gut. For instance, a man on third and nobody out or a man on third with one out, when they're giving you a run by playing the infield back. Those are the ones, if you keep missing scoring opportunities, they're going to come back to haunt you."

Fredi: There'd be no issue with gay player

ATLANTA -- Former Atlanta Hawks center Jason Collins drew widespread attention when it was revealed on Monday that this week's Sports Illustrated will include an essay in which he admits that he is gay.

While Major League Baseball has not yet had an active player admit that he is gay, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez is among those who have said they would not view this as a problem within their own clubhouse.

"Being the manager of a Major League team, I could really [care less] if the guy is gay, white, black, green, Chinese or whatever," Gonzalez said. "If he helps us win a ballgame, I don't care. You treat guys like they're baseball players or football players or whatever. It doesn't bother me whatsoever."

While not saying that gay athletes would face the same hatred and inequalities that Jackie Robinson and some of baseball's other African-American pioneers experienced, Gonzalez said those that follow in Collins' footsteps could serve as an inspiration for homosexual athletes who have been reluctant to admit their sexual orientation.

"It's almost like the color barrier," Gonzalez said. "Not to the extent, but it's close. If there is a guy out there that can help you win some ballgames at any level in any sport, why not?"