Jason Heyward’s sore left thumb is expected to keep him out of the lineup Monday for the Braves’ highly anticipated first game against Washington Nationals pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg.
The injury might also prevent Heyward from playing in the July 13 All-Star Game, depending on the diagnosis when the rookie right fielder is examined again by a hand specialist this week. He’s scheduled to have an MRI on Monday.
“It’s nothing major because I’ve been on the field for the last two months with it,” said Heyward, who hurt the thumb when he jammed it sliding head-first on May 14. “But it’s something that’s creating a problem as far as being consistent.
“I want to get it taken care of now instead of having to worry about it later.”
In the past 24 games in which he batted, Heyward hit .172 (17-for-99) withthree doubles, one homer, seven RBIs, 33 strikeouts, a .274 on-base percentage and a .232 slugging percentage (.506 OPS).
In 46 game before the slump, he hit .301 (47-for-156) with 10 doubles, three triples, 10 homers, 38 RBIs, 29 walks, 35 strikeouts, and a .421 OBP and .596 slugging percentage (1.017 OPS).
“It’s just being able to be consistent with the swing,” he said. “I looked at film two months ago and now, and my thumb is on the bat then. The way I’m holding it now, it’s not even on the bat. So there’s going to be a difference there, no matter what you’re trying to get done, as far as mechanics go.”
Missing some games now, and possibly even the All-Star Game, is preferable to having the sore thumb affect him for the rest of the season, Heyward said. He was out of the lineup Saturday and Sunday.
Heyward had the fourth-most National League All-Star votes in the latest fan voting update released last week, and the second-most votes among NL outfielders.
He’s not hitting balls with authority the way he did consistently before the injury. Hitting coach Terry Pendleton said three weeks ago that Heyward’s thumb was bothering him more than he let on, and that it was preventing him from extending and driving balls like he did earlier.
On Sunday, Heyward agreed with that assessement.
“When you have that top-hand direction, if you don’t have that kind of direction on the bat then you don’t have the same plane every swing,” Heyward said. “It’s not going to be consistent, like I said. That’s one thing I want to get taken care of now, to make sure it’s there for August and September.”