04/29/12 7:30 PM ET
Heyward's speed a surprise perk for Braves
By Guy Curtright / Special to MLB.com
Jason Heyward's early success stealing bases has caught many people off-guard, though. Heyward, however, isn't one of them.
"My goal was to run more," said the outfielder, who dropped weight in the offseason. "I ran a lot this winter, did a lot of sprint work. I think I'm faster."
After stealing second base on Friday and third base on Saturday, Heyward went into Sunday's game against the Pirates a perfect 8-for-8 in stolen-base attempts.
The steal total was one more than Bourn, who had been caught three times, and Heyward was fourth in the National League through Saturday.
"It doesn't surprise me. For a big guy, he can run," Gonzalez said. "He's smart about it, too. He doesn't run just to run."
Opposing teams will obviously start paying more and more attention to Heyward. But for now, he is getting big leads and picking just the right times to take off.
Three of the steals have been of third base and his eighth-inning swipe on Saturday helped the Braves pull within two runs in a 4-2 loss to the Pirates.
"The way I was taught to steal bases is you're not going unless you're sure you can make it," Heyward said. "But if you are running in the right situation, you can't stop running if you do get thrown out."
Heyward was 11-for-17 as a rookie and 9-for-11 last year, when his batting average declined from .277 to .227. He was hitting .288 this season entering Sunday.
Braves giving Delgado opportunity to adjust
ATLANTA -- Randall Delgado's spot in the Braves' rotation seems secure -- at least for the time being -- despite his recent rocky outings.
"The little I know him from last year and all this year, he's going to be OK," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He's going to use these last two outings as an experience and a builder and keep going forward."
Delgado, who had a 2.83 ERA in seven spot starts last year, hasn't been nearly as effective as a regular member of the rotation this year, posting a 6.30 ERA in four outings.
Most alarming, the right-hander has given up nine runs in 9 2/3 innings while losing his last two starts. He will face the Phillies on Thursday in the conclusion of the Braves' homestand.
"He needs to make some adjustments," Gonzalez said. "For me, it's all about him getting ahead in the count."
Julio Teheran, who lost out to Delgado in a Spring Training battle for a rotation spot, is 2-1 with a 3.78 ERA in four starts with Triple-A Gwinnett. But Teheran lasted just 4 1/3 innings in his last outing, giving up seven hits and four runs.
McCann back in lineup, along with Chipper
ATLANTA -- Brian McCann was back in the Braves' lineup on Sunday after missing just one game because of a ribcage strain suffered in the series opener against the Pirates on Friday.
That was definitely good news for the Braves, who need the catcher healthy. He suffered an oblique strain last season and never recovered his batting stroke as the team let a postseason spot slip away in September.
McCann said that he knew this injury was much less serious when he woke up Saturday morning and felt minimal discomfort. Still, the intercostals muscle strain was expected to keep him out of the lineup until Monday's series finale against the Pirates.
"I don't think I can re-injure it doing anything," McCann said. "It's just a matter of dealing with a little twinge."
Chipper Jones was also back in the lineup Sunday after pinch-hitting in Saturday's 4-2 loss, which was his 2,400th game. The third baseman is battling continued soreness in his left knee after having arthroscopic surgery during Spring Training.
Gearrin sent to Minors; Kimbrel left holding bag
ATLANTA -- Craig Kimbrel is back to having to carry the "goody" bag out to the Braves' bullpen despite being the reigning National League Rookie of Year.
Kimbrel, who saved 46 games last season, became the least-senior member of the relief corps when Cory Gearrin was optioned back to Triple-A Gwinnett to make room for Tim Hudson to come off the disabled list for Sunday's start.
Gearrin didn't get into a game after being called up from the G-Braves on Tuesday, when Jair Jurrjens was sent down to Gwinnett to get back on track.
Gearrin seemed a lock to make the team through most of Spring Training before losing his control during his final few appearances. But he pitched 12 1/3 scoreless innings for Gwinnett with 15 strikeouts to two walks before being promoted.
"Gearrin has been pitching lights-out in Triple-A," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "So go back down keeping pitching that way and if we need him again, it'll be an easy decision."
Jair Jurrjens turned in an encouraging performance in his first game for Gwinnett after being sent down to Triple-A by the Braves to get back on track. The 2011 National League All-Star worked seven innings Sunday at Toledo, allowing four hits and a run in a no-decision. Jurrjens walked three and struck out four, throwing 54 of his 93 pitches for strikes. Gwinnett ended up winning, 2-1, in 10 innings.
The Braves' Double-A team in Mississippi has had a severe power shortage this season. The team managed just three home run in its first 24 games -- all by first baseman Ian Gac. Signed as a Minor League free agent before the season, Gac spent the previous nine years trying to work to above Class A in the Rangers' and White Sox organizations. He hit 33 homers last and was named Carolina League MVP.
Lynchburg's Evan Gattis is bidding for a promotion to Double-A, which could give Mississippi a considerable power boost. Gattis, a catcher who is getting a look in the outfield, leads the Class A Carolina League with nine homers and 27 RBIs while putting together a .368 average.
Guy Curtright is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.