Lake Buena Vista, Fla. – Yunel Escobar returned to the Braves’ lineup Tuesday, and Jason Heyward could be back Wednesday if manager Bobby Cox is convinced the top rookie is healed.
Heyward has missed three games with what’s characterized as a minor case of shin splits in his left leg, and the Braves are being cautious to make sure the phenom slugger is healthy for opening day.
“I’ll talk to him tomorrow,” Cox said. “I’d like get that clear, too. Because once the season starts, you’re in there.”
Heyward declined to discuss the shin injury, but showed no sign of favoring it when he took batting practice Tuesday before the game against the New York Yankees at sold-out Champion Stadium.
He hit his usual array of line drives and mammoth shots to the parking lot beyond right field during batting practice.
Escobar, sidelined for three games by a sore back, went 0-for-3 in the 9-6 win against the Yankees. He’s 0-for-7 in his past two games, but still has a .302 average with seven extra-base hits and a .362 on-base percentage in 42 at-bats.
Ross confident he’ll be ready
Backup catcher David Ross has missed five games with a strained groin, and Cox seemed concerned he might not be fully recovered before Monday’s season opener.
When told that Ross was confident he’d be ready, Cox said, “I hope so.”
Ross injured his right groin Thursday when he lunged back to first base to avoid being picked off. He pulled the same groin muscle last year in the final spring training game in Florida and opened the season on the disabled list.
He said the injury wasn’t as severe this time and did some running Tuesday without problem. He had thrown and hit the past couple of days, but still hasn’t squatted and blocked balls, which could serve as a final test in the next few days.
“I feel confident I’ll be ready for opening day,” Ross said. “There’s no sense in trying to push anything when we’ve got extra days [before the opener]. That’s everybody’s consensus: just don’t do anything stupid.”
He already had 10 hits in 28 at-bats (.357) before the injury and said he was grateful to have had the early playing time.
“Last year it grabbed really hard,” he said of the groin injury that landed him on the DL. “This year it just kind of pinched. I probably aggravated the same thing I had last year.
“Last year it was on a base hit the last day of spring training. Base hit, I was just rounding the bag. I’d never had anything like this before, and actually worked real hard in the offseason to strengthen my groin, and stretching. It’s just one of those things. It sucks.”
Kawakami leaves with blister
Kenshin Kawakami pitched five solid innings (five hits, two runs, one earned) against the Yankees before leaving with a blister on his right index finger.
“I think he’ll be fine,” Cox said. “He doesn’t pitch for a long time, at least his regular season start. I think he’ll make his next one.”
The blister didn’t pop and Kawakami is expected to stay on schedule and pitch a minor league game on April 4 before getting extra rest prior to his first regular-season start April 11 at San Francisco.
He had three strikeouts with no walks against the Yankees.