Clearwater, Fla. – The Braves made it to the last week of spring training without a significant injury, but now they have one. Well, sort of. Let me explain.
Understand, a mild case of shin splints isn’t typically considered a significant injury.
But nothing about Jason Heyward and the J-Hey spring has been typical, so shin splints – or a cold, for that matter – become significant. At least to a large number of our readers, who understandably want to know everything about the rookie phenom including, of course, when he’s going to be back in the lineup.
Can’t answer that for you today, but I can assure you that the Braves don’t consider this a troublesome situation, and don’t seem at all concerned about him being ready for opening day Monday against the Chicago Cubs.
One person with the team told me if it was the regular season today, he’d be in the lineup. And GM Frank Wren himself said yesterday – after Heyward was scratched from the lineup over in Viera — that it’s just something the Braves want to nip in the bud so it doesn’t become something that could keep him out for a week during the season.
It wouldn’t surprise me if Heyward is back in the lineup tomorrow, but it also wouldn’t surprise me if he doesn’t play again during these last four Grapefruit League games in Florida, including today’s matchup with the two-time defending NL pennant winners, the Phillies.
I asked Bobby Cox just while ago in the dugout about his phenom right fielder, whether he was feeling any better today.
“I don’t know. He was getting treatment when we left,” Cox said of Heyward, who didn’t make the trip to Clearwater but was back at Dark Star this morning in the training room. “Shin splints, those can bother you for a while.”
But let me reiterate, the Braves don’t believe this is a serious case of shin splints (it’s plural, but apparently Heyward only has it on his left shin). They don’t seem at all worried about this being something that would affect him into the regular season, if they take care of it now.
He’s a big hombre who had an assortment of nagging injuries last season, strains and such that limited him to 99 games in the minors and only a few games in the Arizona Fall League before the Braves shut him down because of a lower back/glute strain.
Heyward is quite muscular and large (6 feet 5, 245 pounds), and maybe he’ll have a few more of these injuries than your typical 200-pound player. I don’t know. But it’s probably a good thing that he’s not one of those guys who doesn’t tell anyone when something’s hurting, because he’s too important to the Braves this season and for many more, to have something minor turn into something major because it wasn’t treated early on.
Oh, by the way: Yunel Escobar is out again with back tightness.
I mean that “by the way” sarcastically. Because it is, of course, sort of ridiculous that the player who was, in my view, the team MVP last year, is relegated to a footnote in our injury story.
But that’s what happens in this unusual, sometimes spectacular J-Hey spring. Things will return to some semblance of normalcy soon enough, I would imagine.
But for now, Escobar’s stiff back gets bumped by Heyward’s sore shin. But don’t worry, we’re certainly asking the same questions about the standout shortstop and everyone else that we’d be asking under normal circumstances. It’s just getting reported a little lower in the blog or stories.
I asked about Escobar being out of the lineup again today, and Cox said, “He worked out great yesterday, but he was stiff this morning, so I told him to stay back” at Braves camp.
♣ Still up for grabs: Cox said again this morning that the last position-player job, the utility infielder job, is still a tossup between Brooks Conrad, who is on the 40-man roster, and Joe Thurstson, who is not (Bobby didn’t point out their 40-man roster status; I just added that to remind the denizens, something to keep in mind if all things are equal. Which, lately at least, they haven’t been. Not offensively. Thurston’s hit better the last week or two, with Conrad down to .238/.347/.381 to Thurston’s .300/.317/.450, for what it’s worth.)
He also said again that there are two bullpen spots still up for grabs, and Cox said there were six guys competing for them. Not to second-guess that, but I think maybe he’s going on the number that was being used before Manny Acosta got shipped to minor league camp over the weekend.
Because there are only five guys left in camp to compete for those two spots: righties Jesse Chavez, Craig Kimbrel and Scott Proctor, and lefties Jo-Jo Reyes and Jonny Venters. The other pitchers have all been either sent to minor league camp or already have spots in the bullpen or rotation.
(Lefty J.A. Happ pitching)
♣ Windy, cloudy: I’ve never been tired of the weather in spring training. Until this year. Usually by the middle of March it’s perfect down here, temps near 80, cloudless sky most days, low humidity. Not this year. It stayed chilly-to-cold for the first month of camp, at least in the mornings (we’re up way too early in spring training).
And then when it did warm up, it stayed windy almost every day and rainy about half the time. I literally waded through standing water, during a tornado warning and torrential rain, to get to my car last night in the unpaved parking lot at Viera. Drove through rain most of the way to get here today. Only a cigar and the new Drive-By Truckers album made it acceptable.
Meanwhile, I was home last week in Atlanta and rode my motorcycle to Athens one day with temps in the 70s, saw the coeds walking around in shorts and tank tops, went to the record stories and got a coffee, then rode back home. It was nice.
It was what spring training weather’s supposed to be like.
Oh, well. I’m sure you all pity me, right? And besides, we’re outta here in four days. No more mouse-eared power-line poles and flame-spewing volcano in the mini-golf course in our condo parking lot, which still scares the hell out of me every time it shoots fire like a giant blowtorch as I’m walking to my car at night or taking the garbage out or whatever.
Hate that I had to miss Wilco Friday in Atlanta, and that Neil Young tickets cost $75-225, but love that James McMurtry’s playing two shows at Five Spot in May, and that we have tix for one of them and for Tom Russell at Eddie’s attic, and of course the fabulous Neko Case is playing with the New Pornographers at Variety soon and … oh, game’s starting. Gotta file this.
Oh, and I love the Alberta Cross CD, Broken Side of Time, that I bought last week at Schoolkids Records in Athens. It’s their first full-length after a terrific EP couple years ago, The Thief and the Hearbreaker.
By the way, they played a show in Dublin, Ireland two weeks ago with Lynryrd Skynyrd. Here’s a video for Alberta Cross’ song ATX.
“EL PASO” by Marty Robbins
Out in the West Texas town of El Paso
I fell in love with a Mexican girl
Nighttime would find me in Rosa’s Cantina
Music would play and Felina would whirl
Blacker than night where the eyes of Felina
Wicked and evil while casting a spell
My love was strong for this Mexican maiden
I was in love, but in vain I could tell
One night a wild young cowboy came in
Wild as the West Texas wind
Dashing and daring, a drink he was sharing
With wicked Felina, the girl that I loved
So in anger I challenged his right for the love of this maiden
Down went his hand for the gun that he wore
My challenge was answered, in less than a heartbeat
The handsome young stranger lay dead on the floor
Just for a moment I stood there in silence
Shocked by the foul evil deed I had done
Many thoughts ran through my mind as I stood there
I had but one chance and that was to run
Out through the back door of Rose’s I ran
Out where the horses were tied
I caught a good one, it looked like it could run
Up on his back and away I did ride
Just as fast as I could from the West Texas town of El Paso
Out thru the badlands of New Mexico
Back in El Paso, my life would be worthless
Everything’s gone in life nothing is left
It’s been so long since I’ve seen the young maiden
My love is stronger than my fear of death
I saddled up and away I did go
Riding alone in the dark
Maybe tomorrow a bullet may find me
Tonight nothing’s worse than this pain in my heart
And at last here I am on the hill overlooking El Paso
I can see Rose’s Cantina below
My love is strong and it pushes me onward
Down off the hill to Felina I go
Off to my right I see five mounted cowboys
Off to my left ride a dozen or more
Shouting and shooting, I can’t let them catch me
I’ve got to make it to Rose’s back door
Something is dreadfully wrong for, I feel
A deep burning pain in my side
Something is dreadfully wrong, for I feel
A deep burning pain in my side
Although I am trying to stay in the saddle
I’m getting weary, unable to ride
It’s getting harder to stay in the saddle
I’m getting weary, unable to ride
But my love for Felina is strong and I rise where I’ve fallen
Though I am weary, I can’t stop to rest
I see the white puff of smoke from the rifle
I feel the bullet go deep in my chest
From out of nowhere, Felina has found me
Kissing my cheek as she kneels by my side
Cradled by two loving arms that I’ll die for
One little kiss and Felina goodbye