8/14/2014 1:16 A.M. ET
Braves coach Perez becomes US citizen
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- Braves bullpen coach Eddie Perez arrived at Turner Field on Wednesday afternoon wearing a bright smile and beaming with pride. The former catcher had spent the previous few hours being naturalized as a United States citizen.
"It was a long process and it went very well," Perez said. "I'm happy to be an American."
When Perez first came to the U.S. in 1986, he was a 17-year-old catcher who had recently signed his first professional contract with the Braves. At the time, he assumed he would spend the rest of his playing career traveling back to live in his native Venezuela during the offseason.
But since establishing residency in the Atlanta area in 1994, Perez has become entrenched in the U.S. culture. His children have been born and raised here and he has developed a strong bond with both Atlanta and the Braves' organization.
"I feel like the United States has given me too much already," Perez said. "It's my job and it's my life. I live here. They've given good education to my kids. I've been living here since 1994. This was our next step, but we just never had the chance to do it. But I'm glad we did it and I feel so proud. I feel much better that I'm a citizen now."
Perez was able to complete all of his requirements with the help of an immigration judge he was introduced to during Braves Fantasy Camp this past winter.
"I always thought I would come here, play baseball and go back every year," Perez said. "There's a better life here. I love to be here. This is my [home]. I think my second [home] now is in Venezuela."
Heyward on board with return to leadoff spot
ATLANTA -- On the way to winning the National League East last year, the Braves produced a 14-game winning streak that was aided by the decision to move Jason Heyward to the leadoff spot. A little more than a year later, they found themselves mired in an offensive funk that had led to them winning just twice over the past two weeks entering Wednesday night.
So in an attempt to rekindle some of last year's magic, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez opted to put Jason Heyward back in the leadoff spot. Although it is too soon to tell if this move will provide a similar spark, Heyward's role in Wednesday night's 3-2 victory against the Dodgers is a sign of encouragement.
Heyward finished 1-for-4, using that one hit to set up the Braves' fifth-inning rally. He reached base on a one-out single against Hyun-Jin Ryu, advanced to second when Ryu plunked Freddie Freeman with a pitch and then showed off his speed by scoring from second on a Justin Upton single to plate the winning run.
There has been some reason to wonder if Gonzalez might eventually platoon Heyward and Emilio Bonifacio in the leadoff role, but the skipper showed he is not interested in that arrangement when he put Heyward in the first spot of his lineup for Wednesday night's matchup against Ryu.
The Braves entered this contest having lost 11 of their previous 13 games, a span burdened by an offense that had scored two runs or less in 13 of their previous 24 games.
"[Heyward] might add a spark or some energy up there and get us going a little bit," Gonzalez said. "I talked to Jason about it yesterday afternoon and he was great. He's a pro. He'll do whatever it takes for us to win. He brings it every night."
• Right-handed reliever Juan Jaime was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett after Wednesday night's win over the Dodgers. The Braves have not announced a corresponding move, but left-handed reliever Luis Avilan seems to be the most likely candidate to be promoted from Gwinnett to fill the vacant spot in Atlanta's bullpen.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.