4/30/2014 8:36 P.M. ET
Braves try to find spot for Floyd, who nears return
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
MIAMI -- The Braves signed Gavin Floyd in December with the belief he would provide insurance to their starting rotation once he completed his rehab from Tommy John surgery. Now that the rehab process is complete and the rotation looks much different than it did four months ago, Floyd could prove to be excess baggage.
Floyd allowed one earned run over five innings while making his sixth Minor League rehab start during Triple-A Gwinnett's win Tuesday night in Toledo. Because his 30-day rehab stint expires on Friday, Floyd must be activated from the disabled list by Sunday. The only question is where does the 31-year-old veteran right-hander fit in Atlanta's pitching staff?
"When he's ready to go, we'll put him in there some place," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, leaving open the possibility that Floyd could initially be placed in the bullpen.
When Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy suffered season-ending elbow injuries in March, it appeared Floyd could prove to be an integral part of the rotation once he was healthy. While this still could prove to be true, there is not currently an obvious spot for him to take in Atlanta's rotation, which entered Wednesday with a Major League-best 1.90 ERA.
Julio Teheran, Ervin Santana are locks to remain in the rotation, which will welcome veteran left-hander Mike Minor back to the fold on Friday. Aaron Harang might not extend the dominance he had displayed before getting pounded by the Marlins on Wednesday night. But as long as he remains effective, he might provide the consistency that often eludes pitchers when they initially return from Tommy John surgery.
The Braves are going to monitor Alex Wood's workload as he progresses through his second professional season. Just two years removed from college, Wood might be limited to somewhere in the neighborhood of 170-180 innings this year. The 40 innings the 23-year-old southpaw has completed through his first five starts puts him ahead of that pace.
Gonzalez said the club is not currently planning to send Wood to the bullpen for a brief period to monitor his workload. This statement seems valid, given the fact that Wood is scheduled to start on Sunday, which is the first day Floyd could start on regular rest.
There is a chance the Braves could initially place Floyd in the bullpen, with the intention of allowing him to make spot starts over the next few weeks in place of any of the rotation members who could benefit from extra rest.
But for now, there is not a clear plan for Floyd, who signed a one-year deal that includes a guarantee of $4 million. His roster bonuses include $175,000 for each 15 days he spends on Atlanta's roster and $250,000 once he compiles 30 and 60 days at the big league level.
Heyward feels he's breaking out of early slump
MIAMI -- Jason Heyward has not been anywhere near as productive as he envisioned when he entered this season. But instead of dwelling on getting off to a slow start for a second straight season, the Braves right fielder is simply attempting to build on the encouragement he has gained over the past week.
"I haven't had many games where I'm content with each at-bat yet," Heyward said. "I know it's going to get there. The only way that happens is to keep doing it."
Heyward batted .141 with a .267 on-base percentage through his first 16 games this season. But he entered Wednesday night's game having hit .294 with a .333 on-base percentage in his previous eight games.
"You just have to be consistent with your timing and work in the right direction," Heyward said. "You've got to keep it simple and keep going from there. The only way to get it is to go out there and keep putting up good at-bats. I do feel like it's getting closer. "
Heyward struggled through the early weeks of last season and then was sidelined for a month because of an emergency appendectomy. He exited May hitting .146 and then batted .312 with a .370 on-base percentage in June. After struggling through most of July, Heyward moved to the leadoff spot near the end of the month and enjoyed one of the most impressive stretches of his career.
Heyward batted .345 with a 1.005 OPS in 23 games from the time he moved into the leadoff role until his jaw was fractured by a Jon Niese pitch on Aug. 21 at Citi Field.
This successful stretch gave the Braves confidence to put Heyward back in the leadoff role this year. Now, they can only hope that he soon turns things around like he did after last year's slow start.
"Right now, I don't see where else I would hit in this lineup, and I don't see who else would bat leadoff in our lineup," Heyward said. "It's one of those things I don't mind."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.