LOS ANGELES – Jason Heyward won’t use it as an excuse, but hitting coach Terry Pendleton said the rookie slugger’s nagging thumb injury is causing him problems.
He went 2-for-17 with eight strikeouts in the four-game series against the Dodgers, including strikeouts to end the ninth and 11th innings – both times with a runner on base – in Sunday’s 5-4 loss.
Heyward tied a major league record by striking out five times in a nine-inning game Friday, including the final out of the 5-4 loss.
“He’s not going to mention it, but he’s struggling with that left thumb,” Pendleton said Sunday morning. “It’s bugging him. He can’t get to a certain point in his swing that he wants to get to without it [hurting].”
Heyward injured the thumb on May 14 when he caught it on the base while sliding head-first. He was scratched from the lineup May 23 at Pittsburgh after it swelled during the game the night before.
He’s 3-for-28 with 10 strikeouts and no extra-base hits in his past seven games, with his only RBI in that stretch coming on a line-drive single in the third inning Sunday.
Before the slump, Heyward hit .372 with nine extra-base hits (two homers) and 10 RBIs in 11 games, including three consecutive two-hit games May 28-30.
“He gets to a certain spot in his swing and it’s almost like he has to come off it,” Pendleton said. “It just gets him. He’s trying to work through that and still stay on the ball.”
Pendleton thinks it could be an injury that’s nagging through the rest of the season, and doesn’t believe resting Heyward for a brief period would help. He thinks it’ll be in the offseason before it completely heals.