7/20/2013 4:44 P.M. ET
Heyward rests another day, aims to start Sunday
Right fielder taking cautious approach in return from strained hamstring
By Brian Hedger / Special to MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Braves right fielder Jason Heyward probably could've started Saturday afternoon's game against the White Sox, but doesn't want to push his strained right hamstring too far.
Heyward initially hurt the hamstring nine days ago trying to advance from first to third on an infield hit by Justin Upton against the Reds in the first of a four-game series before the All-Star break. He's missed four games, sandwiched around the break -- when he rested and rehabbed it.
Heyward then tested it out on Thursday and Friday with some running work and batting practice, saying before the Braves' 6-4 win on Friday that he still felt something while running. He maintained that he was "very close" to returning, possibly this weekend. That status hadn't changed on Saturday afternoon, but Heyward said it's more likely that he'll start Sunday's series finale.
"The day that I feel like I'm ready to play, give yourself one more day with a hamstring," Heyward said. "You have to be careful. I've been fortunate enough to avoid the DL and I don't want to see the DL with this, because it's something that can nag at you for a long time if you don't let it get right."
Heyward, who was hitting .290 with five home runs and 13 RBIs in his past 36 games before getting hurt, said he might be available as a late-inning defensive replacement Saturday. If so, that would clear the way back to the starting lineup Sunday. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez and athletic trainer Jeff Porter are monitoring the situation closely, giving Heyward the final call.
"I've just got to let [Gonzalez] know, 'Hey, I'm ready to go,' but [Friday], I let him know that if I felt like I could play [Saturday], then Sunday would be the smartest and he agreed," Heyward said.
The Braves continue inching toward getting most of their everyday lineup intact. First baseman Freddie Freeman, who jammed his thumb last Saturday against the Reds, started on Saturday after entering Friday night's game as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning. Justin Upton also started Friday, going 2-for-4 with two runs scored, after missing the last two games before the break with a left calf strain.
In all, two of the four lineup regulars who were hurt in that series against the Reds are back -- with Heyward on the doorstep and center fielder B.J. Upton on the 15-day disabled list with a right adductor strain.
Freeman fine after collision with Dunn
CHICAGO -- Freddie Freeman had just gotten back into a game for the first time on Friday night when he nearly got hurt again.
After missing the final game before the All-Star break plus sitting out the All-Star Game because of a jammed left thumb, Freeman didn't start in Friday night's 6-4 win against the White Sox. He entered the game in the eighth inning as a defensive replacement for Joey Terdoslavich and wound up in a collision with 6-foot-6, 285-pound Adam Dunn on a close play at first for the inning's second out.
"It was just one of those plays," Freeman said. "I'm right in the baseline, so I knew I was going to probably be getting hit, but I just had to make that pick. I'll take the brunt of [the blame for] it."
He also appeared to take Dunn's knee in his back during the collision, which sent Freeman and Dunn tumbling to the ground after the out was recorded. The initial fear was about his jammed thumb, but Freeman -- who started at first on Saturday afternoon -- said he's fine. He didn't even check it afterward.
"Nope, if I'm out there, I'm not even going to think about it," Freeman said. "That's where I'm at right now. I feel great. It's not 100 percent and I don't think it's going to be 100 percent, but it's good enough to play through it."
Considering nobody got hurt on the play, the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Freeman was able to joke about it a day later.
"Of course [it happened on] the first play … but we're all good," he said. "I look in the dugout and I see Bubba [athletic trainer Jeff Porter] and just his face is like a ghost went across his face, like, 'Of course that would happen,' but Adam's OK. I made sure he was fine, because you know he's going to take the brunt of it -- because I'm so big. He's a huge man. He just asked if I was all right and I asked if he was OK, because he fell, too."
Beachy impressive in winning Triple-A rehab start
CHICAGO -- Rehabbing starter Brandon Beachy picked up the win in a 5-4 victory for Triple-A Gwinnett on Friday night against Indianapolis.
Beachy, who's recovering from Tommy John surgery he underwent last season, threw five innings and allowed one run on five hits. He also walked one and struck out three. It's another progression in Beachy's rehab assignment, which was shut down in late June because of discomfort in his elbow.
The right-hander threw three innings on July 9 against Norfolk, giving up two runs on three hits in his first start back and then tossed four innings on July 14 at Durham (one run on four hits). On Friday night, he only needed 70 pitches to get through his five innings and threw 15 more fastballs in the bullpen afterward to reach his set pitch count.
"I just saw the game report and he threw the ball really, really well," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said before Saturday afternoon's game against the White Sox. "Everything was really [good], he commanded the ball well, spun some breaking balls. It was a good sign."
A better sign will be how Beachy's arm responds Saturday.
"No question, but the report did say that after the game he's felt the best he's felt in a while," Gonzalez said. "That next day, how he feels, is always [important], but from what I read in the reports, I don't feel like there's going to be any other problem."
The biggest "problem" might be what Gonzalez wants to do with his staff when Beachy is deemed ready to return. Gonzalez mentioned that Beachy's next milestone might be throwing seven innings in a rehab start. After that, he could have some tough decisions.
"Those problems usually take care of themselves," Gonzalez said. "For a month, when he started his rehab, everybody was like, 'When's Beachy coming up? When is he coming back?' and we had kind of a mental date penciled in and [after] his last rehab start [in June] he goes, 'I don't feel too good, shut it down,' So, we'll see what happens."
Brian Hedger is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.