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Heyward to miss All-Star Game
But after watching him take batting practice Saturday for the first time in two weeks, Atlanta remained hopeful that he could be just a few days away from rejoining the lineup.
After Heyward took about 50 swings with the Triple-A Gwinnett club before its game against Charlotte on Saturday night, the Braves revealed that Heyward is not ready to take advantage of the opportunity to serve as one of the National League’s starting outfielders in this year’s Midsummer Classic in Anaheim.
Major League Baseball is expected to fill Heyward’s roster spot on Sunday.
While announcing Heyward’s status, Braves general manager Frank Wren made it known this was simply a precautionary decision that could improve the odds of Heyward being ready to play Thursday, when Atlanta returns from the All-Star break to host Milwaukee.
The 20-year-old outfielder has been sidelined since June 26 with a jammed left thumb that he incurred while sliding into third base on May 14.
Had Heyward been ready to begin playing in Minor League rehab games Friday or Saturday, there was a chance he could have been cleared to play in the All-Star Game.
But while evaluating his status throughout the week, the Braves and the young outfielder obviously placed their focus on preparing him to return to regular-season action as soon as possible.
“I would have liked to rehab in the game [Friday] and [Saturday],” Heyward told reporters Saturday. “But we figured this was the best timetable for it. It might have been rushing it a little bit.”
Instead of playing a rehab game with Gwinnett on Sunday, Heyward will travel to Anaheim to enjoy the All-Star festivities. He will likely take batting practice on Monday and Tuesday with his NL teammates.
“What I’d like to do is be ready to play July 15, the first game of the second half for us,” Heyward said. “I’d also like to respect the National League team and give them the best chance to win the game. I don’t want to be selfish and play in the game, because this one does count.”
Wren was among those who were impressed with how Heyward looked during Saturday’s batting practice. He provided indication that he has regained the top hand strength that he lacked while playing through discomfort caused by his injured thumb.
Showing he has also maintained his endurance, Heyward hit two balls over the outfield wall during his last round of cuts Saturday.
“I was able to take that high pitch up and away and stay on top of it and use my top hand to hit it,” Heyward said. “I couldn’t do that before, so that’s a sign it’s feeling better.”
When Heyward was hitting .301 with 10 homers and a Major League-best 1.017 OPS through May 30, he was the top NL Rookie of the Year candidate and a potential MVP candidate. But in the 25 games he played after suffering the thumb injury, he hit just .172 with one homer and a .507 OPS.