Heyward goes waaay deep; Venters strong in return

VIERA, Fla. – Space Coast Stadium has been open for 18 years and, near as anyone can tell, only one homer’s been hit where Jason Heyward put one Thursday.

In the fifth inning of a 6-3 loss to the Washington Nationals, the Braves outfielder hit a monster home run to straightaway center that sailed over the 35-foot green wall that serves as the “batter’s eye” backdrop. It’s 404 feet to the base of the wall.

“I think he just missed it,” cracked Nationals pitcher Edwin Jackson, who threw the fastball that Heyward demolished.

“I got that one pretty good,” said Heyward, who homered for the second consecutive game and fourth time this spring. “I knew I got it great. He throws pretty hard. I put a good swing on a pitch, stayed through the middle, didn’t come off it.”

Former Marlin Cliff Floyd hit the only other home run that longtime Space Coast Stadium denizens and reporters could recall clearing the center-field wall during a game.

“That’s a bomb,” said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, who was a third-base coach for the Marlins when Floyd hit cleared the wall.

Heyward is only hitting .214 for the spring, but the work he put in to retool his swing during the winter and early in spring training has begun to pay dividends in the past two weeks in the form of line drives and more quality at-bats in which he’s worked counts.

His homer to center field came a day after the left-handed slugger hit one out to left-center.

“That’s what we’ve been working on – let the pitch dictate where you hit the ball, don’t try and hit it to any spot,” Heyward said. “Just keep it in your mind to work it through the middle, and if you have to change your location, so be it.”

Venters strong in return

Jonny Venters said his arm “couldn’t have felt better” when he retired all three batters on two groundouts and a flyout in the eighth inning Thursday in his first appearance since March 18.

The left-hander had been sidelined by soreness in the upper part of his pitching arm near the shoulder.

“I felt really good,” said Venters, who fell behind in the count 3-and-0 against two hitters. “My timing wasn’t what I want it to be, but I missed 10 days. I felt really good though. Best it’s felt in a while. I couldn’t ask for it to be any better. Now I’ve just got to work on kind of getting everything else locked in.

“Missing 10 days kind of hurt me in preparation. But I’m going to get in two more games and I think that’ll be plenty.”

Hudson to start Monday

Veteran Tim Hudson will start and pitch two innings Monday against the Mets in the Braves’  Grapefruit League finale, his first game action since Nov. 28 lumbar spine-fusion surger. He’ll open the season on the 15-day disabled  list and the Braves hope to have him back in the rotation in the last week of April.

Monday was to have been Brandon Beachy’s regular day to pitch, so he’ll follow Hudson and pitch about six innings.

25 comments Add your comment

ChopAttack

March 29th, 2012
8:01 pm

Anyone have a link to the home run today?

Tami

March 29th, 2012
8:18 pm

ChopAttack: I’m thinking that if you go to the Braves’ site on MLB.com, you might find it. That’s where I’m headed since I missed the game too. If I get there before you do, I’ll post the link.

Alaska Braves Fan

March 29th, 2012
8:19 pm

Everyone of the Braves now seem to be ALMOST in the groove. Heyward, Venters, Freeman . . . .

We may get a quick indication of how the season is going to play out within the first week or two of the season. If all the guys get dialed in, this could be a good start.

ABF

B-F_52

March 29th, 2012
8:20 pm

Tami

March 29th, 2012
8:22 pm

Tami

March 29th, 2012
8:24 pm

Sorry, ChopAttack….I stand corrected. It’s the article covering the mammoth home run, but no video footage as of yet.

Bat Masterson

March 29th, 2012
8:29 pm

Thanks for the update, David. It would have been nice to see that one, pity it was not on MLB.com.

Milt Famey

March 29th, 2012
8:31 pm

ABF, How about Uggla–he’s also raking. With a true leadoff man and w/o D Lowe, we are sure to be better than last yr. Ready for some baseball !!!
I guess all those early games didn’t mean much after all. Maybe the pro coaches and managers know more than some of the “fans” give them credit for.

justafan

March 29th, 2012
8:31 pm

Maybe Walker is already earning dividends. Keep it going J-Hey and Freeman.

Wish AJC would fix the wheel spin on their network.My computer speeds three four time every time I try to blog. Only on ajc.

Milt Famey

March 29th, 2012
8:33 pm

Oh, and BTW, it wasn’t the beer…

justafan

March 29th, 2012
8:40 pm

RIP Earl Scruggs.

RogueRunr

March 29th, 2012
10:37 pm

I haven’t seen any spring training games, but I saw a video of Heyward’s game-tying home run yesterday. Crazy-scary beautiful swing on that one. If the young man continues to swing like that, this will be an epic year for him and the Braves.

Jay Dubu

March 30th, 2012
12:00 am

The Braves knew that the hitting coach wasn’t working out last season, and refused to make the change.

Could a new hitting coach have helped the Braves last season?

kinghunterx5

March 30th, 2012
3:54 am

ANYONE GET A VIDEO YET?

Brave New World

March 30th, 2012
6:16 am

Kudos to J-Hey for being patient enough to work on his hitting, and for not panicking when he started slow in the spring. This man is a 5-tool talent and will only get better. GO J-HEY! GO BRAVES!

Milky

March 30th, 2012
8:31 am

When they run into top starting pitchers I’m sure these hot hitting Braves will return to the .240 team BA that we know them to be…

ATLBrave

March 30th, 2012
9:27 am

Any one have a Braves Blog Fantasy Baseball league?

Moeman

March 30th, 2012
9:54 am

Season rests on this guys big shoulders. Put him in 3 hole and roll the dice. Braves will do as well as he, McCann and Freeman do. Other guys are simply tablesetters. Chipper is no longer a 3 hole guy. When he plays bat him 6.

Adrian

March 30th, 2012
10:39 am

Moeman-

I agree on putting Heyward in the 3-hole, but don’t forget about Uggla. He could be a key guy too!

MAC

March 30th, 2012
10:42 am

if Heyward returns to form……. our lineup could look…..

1. Bourn (L)
2. Prado (R)
3. Freeman (L)
4. Uggla (R)
5. Heyward (L)
6. Mac (L)
7. (Skee/Diaz) (RL)
8. Pastor/Simmons (R)

If Chipper is healthy, slide him into the 5th slot and drop everyone down down a spot –taking out LF platoon……….. now this is all if heyward is consistent……………………………………..

Moeman

March 30th, 2012
11:00 am

Adrian – like Uggla or BMac cleanup. Freeman in 5 hole. Chipper should hit 6 or 7 when able to play.

Tech'83

March 30th, 2012
11:17 am

@MAC: Promising line-up MAC. Like many others, if this line-up is hitting then it would be scary. But that is what I thought last year and it just didn’t pan out. Though, to his credit, Uggla manned up after the break and carried the team. I’ve never been a huge fan of Chipper but the numbers don’t lie for this future HoF inductee. But I am pessimistic about his ability on two bad knees that are giving him trouble even before opening day. I imagine platooning Jones/Prado at third must be difficult for Prado; it just means he will never be particularly good at either position. As much as Chipper deserves respect, I wonder if it would be best for the club for him to retire before opening day. Of course if he gets hurt during the season (not a stretch of the imagination) then this point may become moot.

I hope they are giving Constanza a good look for the outfield platoon. His speed combined with Bourn’s gives the Braves a dimension that has been absent for a long, long time. I like the idea of batting the pitcher in the 8-hole and Constanza in the 9-slot.

Jimmy James

March 30th, 2012
1:45 pm

I’d love to see a bomb like that from Jason on opening day- let’s see if he can hit one his first at bat of the season three years in a row!

Ryan

March 30th, 2012
2:40 pm

Does anyone have video footage of this? I’ve searched MLB, Braves Site, You Tube, ESPN – nada. Please tell me there is video footage somewhere of this.

phil

March 31st, 2012
12:48 pm

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