Big things were expected from the Braves’ power-hitting duo of Jason Heyward and newcomer Dan Uggla, the former an All-Star as a rookie in 2010, the latter a two-time All-Star and Silver Slugger award winner last season with the Marlins.
Considering how little production the Braves have gotten from the injury-slowed Heyward and underperforming Uggla, it shouldn’t be surprising that the team was only four games above .500 (28-24) before Saturday.
If anything, the surprise should’ve been that their record wasn’t worse.
In 2010, Heyward and Uggla had a combined .282 average with 52 doubles, 49 homers, 177 RBIs, 169 walks and 183 runs.
With nearly one-third of the 2011 season completed, Heyward and Uggla had a combined .196 average with 11 doubles, 14 homers, 30 RBIs, 37 walks and 39 runs before Saturday.
Heyward is eight days into a stint on the 15-day disabled list recovering from recurring soreness in his right shoulder. He hasn’t resumed swinging and could be out at least another 10 days.
He had a dye-contrast MRI exam last week – his second MRI on the shoulder — which Heyward said showed wear-and-tear damage to the labrum of his right (non-throwing) shoulder, but nothing to require surgery.
“I’m doing stuff to strengthen my scapula, to get it to be more like my throwing side,” he said. “And then we go from there.”
Heyward has hit .214 with seven homers,14 RBIs and a 317 on-base percentage in 45 games, including .098 (4-for-41) with one extra-base hit (double) and no RBIs in May.
“I thought I could play with it some; I had some stretches this year where I was where I thought I should be,” he said. “But the wear and tear of every day and how hard I play, and swinging the bat every day, made it worse gradually. It’s a little frustrating, but while I still have time – this is only year two of my career – so I most definitely need to take care of it.”
Asked if felt better after a week of rest, he said, “Honestly I wouldn’t be able to tell anyone about it being better until I notice the pain being gone… Because I still use my shoulder and arm just for everyday stuff, and it still does nag at home, sitting down and doing nothing I can still feel it.”
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez was told the MRI revealed “normal wear and tear” of a major league shoulder. He said Friday he was hopeful Heyward could resume hitting next week, then get at-bats in extended-spring training in Orlando before a brief rehab assignment at Triple-A Gwinnett. Gonzalez thought he might be ready shortly after the 15-day DL period.
Judging from Heyward’s comments Saturday, it could be longer.
“The labrum has the wear and tear,” Heyward said. “That’s why we’re trying to strengthen everything around it right now, and hopefully that will make it better and be what I need to have no pain and be ready to play.
“I would say my swing is probably more violent for this [right] shoulder than the other one, and that’s probably how I did it. It doesn’t help to swing and miss; right now it doesn’t help to be swinging. So right now, while the labrum is damaged it’s going to cause some pain and discomfort with the swing. That’s why we’re trying to get it back to where I can manage that.”
Heyward said he was assured surgery wasn’t needed.
“They definitely said it’s not anything to have surgery, at this point,” he said. “Of course if it continues to get worse [surgery might be needed later]. But looking at the MRIs and things like that, I won’t need any surgery.”
Uggla’s epic slump
He nearly hit a three-run homer in Friday night’s 5-1 loss to Cincinnati, but Uggla had to settle for a sacrifice fly just shy of the center-field wall. It was only his second RBI in 15 games.
Uggla was 7-for-61 (.115) with one extra-base hit, 2 RBI and a .396 OPS in 15 games before Saturday. That sunk his average to .183 (second-worst among National League regulars) and OPS to .585, third-lowest in the league.
His .125 average with runners in scoring position was fifth-lowest.
First homer off Kimbrel
In his 51st major league appearances, rookie closer Craig Kimbrel finally allowed a home run.
Entering the ninth inning Friday with the Braves trailing 3-1, he gave up a leadoff walk to Jay Bruce and a one-out homer by Ramon Hernandez. It was the third two-run outing for Kimbrel in 10 appearances before Saturday.
Kimbrel went 4-0 with a 0.34 ERA and .132 opponents’ average in his first 27 regular-season appearances, allowing just one earned run and 10 hits in 26-2/3 innings. In 20 appearances since, he had a 4.26 ERA and .225 opponents’ average with nine earned runs and 16 hits in 19 innings.