Lake Buena Vista, Fla. – Two games into spring training, rookie Jason Heyward has already convinced one prominent Braves veteran that he’ll be on the opening-day roster.
Heyward had a line-drive RBI double and a walk in three plate appearances Wednesday in a 9-5 win against the New York Mets. The right-field phenom also made some nice catches and hustled home from second on a misplayed grounder.
Chipper Jones was asked for an estimated arrival date for the 20-year-old, the third baseman replied, “What’s opening day?”
That’d be April 5 against the Chicago Cubs, when Jones and plenty of other Braves expect Heyward to be starting in right field at Turner Field.
“I would be shocked if he doesn’t break camp with us,” Jones said.
Manager Bobby Cox reiterated Wednesday that the Braves would take the best 25 players, and Heyward has certainly been one so far in camp.
“If he wins the job, he wins the job,” Cox said. “No holding back. He’s been pretty impressive.”
Heyward is 2-for-3 with three walks and several baserunning plays that delighted the manager. He went to second twice on wild pitches Tuesday, and scored from second Wednesday when a ball caromed off the second baseman’s glove and into the outfield.
He smoked a first-pitch RBI double to the right-center gap with one out in the sixth, then scored on Yunel Escobar’s grounder off the second baseman (ruled a two-run single). He made three catches, including a diving play after a spike stuck in the grass.
“He does everything good,” Cox said of the Henry County High graduate. “He hits the ball harder than [Ryan] Klesko did, and we always thought Klesko would hurt somebody.”
The left-handed hitting Heyward walked against lefty Pat Misch in the first inning and popped out against lefty Eric Niesen to end the fourth. He doubled off right-hander Eddie Kunz.