Jones’ message: Heyward needs to learn to play with pain

Jason Heyward has sat out 17 games this season will miss several more with shoulder pain.

Jason Heyward has sat out 17 games and he's expected to miss several more. (Curtis Compton)

When a player of significance is injured, it can be a problem for his team. When the player of significance has a lingering injury that doesn’t show up on an X-ray or an MRI, it can be a problem for the player.

This is the gray area where Jason Heyward currently  sits (with an ice bag).

Chipper Jones did not necessarily call out his Braves teammate the other day when he said that Heyward “needs to realize [that] at 80 percent [he’s] a force,” and that, “There are a bunch of his teammates that are out there playing with discomfort and not healthy.”

But that’s about as close as you can come to saying, “Rub some dirt on it.”

Jones is team’s elder statesman. He is one of the clubhouse leaders. He’s also playing with a meniscus tear in his knee. If he says something, there’s a pretty good chance he is not the only one thinking it.

Heyward says he has a sore shoulder. Nobody doubts that. But injuries can be a dangerous thing when it comes to forming perceptions. At one end of the spectrum, we think of Willis Reed, dragging his injured leg onto the court at Madison Square Garden for Game 7 of the NBA finals. At the other end, we think of J.D. Drew spending an inordinate time lounging on the disabled list and missing games with the Braves because he said he strained his neck while swimming in a friend’s pond. (Was the pond Loch Ness?)

No player in any sport is 100 percent after the season starts. That’s the message Jones was trying to get across. There are degrees of injuries. Most of them are taped up, shot up, iced and played with.

This might just be something Heyward still needs to learn. But at 21 years old and in season two of his career, it’s a bit premature to start labeling a guy (particularly after he was runner up for rookie of the year last season).

Braves general manager Frank Wren said Jones was merely “stating the obvious. We need Jason back in the lineup. I don’t think he was calling him out.”

He certainly did not suggest Heyward lacked toughness. But he chose his words carefully when asked if the club had any lingering concern that Heyward might not fully understand what injury he should or should not try to play through.

“I think that’s the balancing act for all young players,” he said. “Sometimes they’re dealing with injuries and aches and pains they’ve never dealt with before. You don’t want to mess with your career, so you’ve got to figure it out. That’s one thing we’re trying to help him work out – what can you play through and what can you make sure is healed before you play again.”

Wren said the Braves would rather Heyward sit out and heal up now than have the injury linger through the season. He also understands that sometimes players get reputations.

“To me that’s the difficult part,” he said. “Whether you’re in my position, a manager, a fan, a teammate, you’re not walking in that guy’s shoes. We have no doubt that Jason has discomfort in his shoulder, even though tests show there’s no structural damage. But there’s inflammation in there and it’s sore when he swings. Sure, we could’ve brought him back quicker. But we would be taking the chance that this could linger all year.”

Heyward is working with a physical therapist in Orlando. Soon, he’ll go to the minors on a rehab assignment for “several games,” Wren said, and eventually he’ll be back with the Braves.  Nobody is putting any dates on this.

When he returns, Heyward will be greeted by a .214 average but a world of expectations to help a struggling offense. The guess here is that he’ll play through whatever soreness he has, barring a significant injury.

This is the closest Heyward has come to feeling any heat or criticism in his career. There’s a pretty good chance that it will have an impact And Jones is right about something: 80 percent of Heyward is still better than most of the Braves’ lineup.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

216 comments Add your comment

ClemsonBrad

June 9th, 2011
9:46 am

FIRST!! I am in the camp that he needs to rest….J-Hey banged up so far in his career has not been very productive on the field.

Nailed It

June 9th, 2011
9:54 am

Heyward needs to get back out there. Do a few games in the minors and get back to Atlanta so we can an offense going.

MattyB

June 9th, 2011
9:57 am

Every young player should have a clubhouse leader like Chipper Jones. Heyward should feel fortunate.

Sonny Clusters

June 9th, 2011
9:58 am

We was thinking Chipper would be hesitant to call anybody out after Smoltz called him out awhile back and called Chipper everything but a big sissy . . . which was what he was acting like. When we was playing ball we called out Jeff one time when he was crying because he struck out in a big game and Stinky Wintes came up and hit a walk-off homerun and got treated at the Dairy Queen instead of Jeff. That was some bad memory seeing a teammate acting like that. We wrote a little poem for Dan Uggla and it goes like this . . . Roses are red, Uggla is blue, His average just dropped, from 1-7-2.

What??

June 9th, 2011
10:01 am

I really don’t understand any of the commentary about Jason. He played a good portion of last season with a messed up thumb because he didn’t want to tell anyone. He didn’t hit well during that period and it hurt the team. Same thing this year. He was playing with a bum shoulder and wasn’t hitting well. It is much better for the Braves to have Jason healthy for 120 games and playing his best than for him to be playing hurt for 162 games and not playing well. I really don’t think Chipper was trying to say anything about Jason other than that they really need him in the lineup (which is obvious to anyone who has had to suffer watching this incredibly anemic offense).

Dr. Phil

June 9th, 2011
10:07 am

Chipper, of the chronic sore toe, shouldn’t call anyone on phantom injuries, particularly when he is batting .250.

Fish Bisch

June 9th, 2011
10:07 am

Heyward is a bigger bust than Francouer was.

Jeff

June 9th, 2011
10:10 am

U-G-L-A he ain’t got not hit today

Supes

June 9th, 2011
10:10 am

Heyward needs to ’suck it up’ and play. Looks at players like Prado who don’t wanna come out no mater what. If this “shoulder issue” is not affecting his swing (like the hand injury he had last year that had him struggling for six weeks) he should be playing and doing what he can like the rest of the guys who are playing less than 100%.

It’s a darn baseball season…at some point you’ll be dealing with injuries…play through them! Earn the love and respect of your team mates, the fans and the rest of the league.

Don’t complain every time you bang your big toe walking up the stairs….

JackDennis

June 9th, 2011
10:12 am

Heyward will be a big part of this team. But he needs to get in there and play ball. Now.

Nailed It

June 9th, 2011
10:12 am

Fish Bisch – easy on THAT comparison.

Tech Fan

June 9th, 2011
10:12 am

Chipper was not calling Heyward out. This was all taken out of context. DOB said on the radio yesterday that Chipper was just giving Heyward advise that Chipper had to learn himself when he started having nagging injuries. In fact, when DOB asked Chipper if he felt like he needed to get in touch with Heyward to explain his comments, Chipper said no, he already spoke to him weeks before he said these things to DOB. Heyward will be back in about 3 weeks…..

Dennis Reynolds

June 9th, 2011
10:17 am

Man some of you “Braves fans” embarrass me to the point I almost want to become a fan of a team with better fans. Too bad I’m a die hard Braves fan already.

LEARN SOMETHING PEOPLE!

PMC

June 9th, 2011
10:26 am

Part of the message was that our outfield is a freaking mess. Basically the fantastic production at 2nd last year shifted to left and that was about it.

His message was just…..please hurry back because just having him in the lineup helps even if you’re hurt.

Organizationally, for whatever reason, they have completely and totally failed to find any semblence of outfield production.

What I don't get

June 9th, 2011
10:27 am

Heyward played “injured” all of last year and missed brief bit of time sitting on the DL because of a bad hand. Yet he’s “soft”? Thanks AJC writer for not reminding your boneheaded readers out there that Jason has indeed played with pain and injuries before. Hell he should have been on the DL to start this season off but “played with pain” in his shoulders until his arm could no longer hold up.

But I forget… that’s how its done in this town. Have to have these readers come on and comment a blog about nothing.

PMC

June 9th, 2011
10:28 am

From top to bottom for about the last 5 to 7 years the scouting, drafting what have you. They are woefully inadequate for a major league club.

PMC

June 9th, 2011
10:30 am

We traded for Rick Ankiel for gosh sakes.

beauvighn

June 9th, 2011
10:31 am

I think the prima donna heyward needs to spend some time back in AAA. He has forgotten how fortunate he is not to have those 8 hr. bus rides to remote outposts..Look what it has done for Schafer..Stop being a cry baby heyward..The tests show nothing is wrong with you..

steve brown

June 9th, 2011
10:31 am

The hole in this lineup for the past few years is the salary sucked up by an average player who due to a litany of injuries is a part-timer, that is Chipper Jones. He needs to shut up and go away (or just go huntin’) and let the manager manage. The audacity of Jones questioning another players threshold of pain when he himself could be called a slacker for all the games he has missed the past half dozen years is pathetic.

What??

June 9th, 2011
10:32 am

Supes – You are a moron. Of course his shoulder is affecting his swing. That’s why he was hitting .214 before he went on the DL. God what stupid comment.

PMC

June 9th, 2011
10:34 am

They don’t make the playoffs without Heyward last season. Let’s back off the sissy comments.

Something is obviously very wrong with his shoulder. It wouldn’t be the first time doctors have been stumped.

Harvey Updyke

June 9th, 2011
10:34 am

Roll damn tide

Hankie Aron

June 9th, 2011
10:37 am

Heyward needs to get healthy first. This is a lose/lose for him no matter what he does. If he plays and is ineffective then people will say he should have gotten healed or if he doesn’t play at 80% then he is getting comparisons to JD Drew. He had huge production last year before the thumb injury. Sad to say but some players have to be at 100% to be effective and Heyward seems to be that type of player.

Lowcountry Bulldawg

June 9th, 2011
10:38 am

Chipper Jones was 100% correct. Once ESPN and others got it it was spun, but Chipper was not throwing him under the bus.

Larry

June 9th, 2011
10:43 am

Chipper suggesting another player should play when injured. Wow!

That’s like Bill Clinton telling Anthony Weiner he should be a loyal husband.

Sonny Clusters

June 9th, 2011
10:45 am

To clear things up, here is what Chipper really said . . . “Uh, being at, uh, 80% is, uh, better than having some uh, bozo out there. (insert a couple cliches here) “

Braves73

June 9th, 2011
10:45 am

This is a very tricky situation for Jason. I completely understand his desire to be “100%” before he comes back to the club, but at what point will that ever happne? The Braves as an organization, have done every medical test on his shoulder and have not found any “major structural damage”.

The onus is now on Jason to make the decision to come back and start playing with the discomfort or what for the pain to completely subside (which will not occur do to the unnatural motion that swinging a bat will have on his shoulder). The decision is his, but time is ticking and the Braves desperately need his presence in the lineup.

LMAO

June 9th, 2011
10:50 am

Hey Larry Who you calling out Mister OLE on any hard ball hit
to Third. Oh wait my toe hurts my knee hurts SHUT LARRY
RETIRE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What??

June 9th, 2011
10:50 am

As long as the Braves are staying in the division race, what is the motivation to rush Heyward back into the lineup and possibly cause him to play with a nagging injury all year? If the wheels were coming off the wagon, I could see putting some pressure on him to play hurt. That is not the case, so my vote is to give him another week or two to get as healthy as possible.

CONservative Johnson

June 9th, 2011
10:53 am

He definitely called Heyward out; after getting mad because Smoltz did it to him. The spinning now is kind of funny . . .

Dozer

June 9th, 2011
10:54 am

Dr. Chipper should be doing this without involving the media – seems I recall that he wasn’t too happy a few years ago when Smoltz did the same to him. Where’s Freddie in all this?

LMAO

June 9th, 2011
10:59 am

LARRY LARRY QUITE CONTRARY I HOPE HEYWARD
JACKS YOU UP WHEN HE SEES YOU

sportsvet

June 9th, 2011
10:59 am

Hell! Hayward is not the problem! UGLY IS! No ill will here but I’m sure we could get someone to take UGLY’s place and hit more if he was on the DL. But wait, he is…

Coach

June 9th, 2011
11:01 am

I don’t take Chipper’s side often, but I agree with him in this case 100%.
Steve, Chipper averaged 158 games/year from age 24-31.
Hankie, no one is ever 100% healthy throughout a season so if JH stays injury prone, what good will he be?
I don’t know what JH is going through, and I’m not questioning him yet. But bottom line is you have to play through minor injuries & aches, pains, & soreness.

Sonny Clusters

June 9th, 2011
11:03 am

We was considering . . .does Chipper Jones talk like a deer? If your best friend was a deer wouldn’t you talk a little like him? For instance, “Uh,toss it over here, uh, Deerbuddy.” Not knowing exactly what a deer talks like puts us at a disadvantage but we can guess a talking deer would sound and make about as much sense as Chipper Jones.

Bravefan for life

June 9th, 2011
11:04 am

Hasn’t Chpper been sitting a lot himself? Knee, Back, Side? Seems to me the last three games that I watched, Chipper was not in the lineup. Prado was playing 3rd.
Hes one to talk I think!

Sonny Clusters

June 9th, 2011
11:08 am

Deer talk is secretive. Not many people get close enough to a deer to have one talk openly. Clearly, Chipper Jones walks among the deer and is now starting to talk like a deer. Who on this team is better at the sports cliche? No one. We was always thinking that when Chipper retires he can be an announcer on deer TV.

phil

June 9th, 2011
11:09 am

Hurtward….Isn’t he the one that the idiots among us labelled a hall of famer after one at bat? Is he the one on the magazine covers? On the commercials?

He’s also the one not on the field, right? The one hitting .214? The one who can’t go back on a baseball and actually catch it? The one who can’t make an accurate throw?

Chipper should have said more.

steve brown

June 9th, 2011
11:10 am

Coach, what about the past 6 years-are you giving Jones a pass for prior service.

dean

June 9th, 2011
11:11 am

My right shoulder hurts from waking up to going to bed. It has for almost 30 years. I know what caused it. Nothing broken, torn or mutilated according to the docs who have made their boat, car, vacation house payments, etc. off my visits. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!) “Here. Take some of these for the pain”, they would say. I did. For awhile. Why risk heart attack, stroke, or erections that last longer than 4 hours for a sore shoulder?

I’m not saying JH is dogging it. I’m only saying that there are in fact times the docs can’t the find the thing that’s causing the pain that, in my case, was damm near debilitating whenever I want to be my son’s catcher. Just throwing the ball back to him was a killer. No way could I have ever played through that.

Jason Heyward Needs To Grow Up

June 9th, 2011
11:14 am

Jason Heyward is lucky to have Chipper Jones to set him straight. So far his MLB career has amounted to lots of potential and not much production. His pre-occupation with sliding headfirst into everything will limit by years whatever he might accomplish .. Go take a look at videos of Mickey Mantle, Henry Aaron, Ernie Banks, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig .. Do you see them sliding headfirst into everything? Jeff Francoeur got the reputation as being a baseball player who played the game like it was football. Young Mr. Heyward could use a little bit of that intellectual approach. Quit whining; play the game.

Bill

June 9th, 2011
11:18 am

Rest, rest,rest,rest,rest, we will be ok without you till you are well….screw what they say..call up Gartrell and play. We might like what Gartrell bring to play and J-Hey may be out of a job.

phil

June 9th, 2011
11:19 am

Dean – You aren’t paid piles of money to play for the Braves either while gladly eating up all the press about yourself when you’ve done little to deserve it…..

I for one am sick and tired of hearing how great this guy is when he in fact isn’t great, nor even close to it.

He’ll be great when he actually performs….which is looking more and more like never.

Terrell

June 9th, 2011
11:23 am

For all those calling out Heyward, if this was Chipper Jones in his youth you all would be saying let him rest. You all would be saying Chipper is the future so we should try to save him. Is Heyward important to the team? Yes, but Chipper really should be calling out his overpaid teammate (like himself) Dan Uggla. Having a sore shoulder from an injury is different from having a sore shoulder from working out because that soreness will go away. Soreness from an injury lets you know that the injury still lingers. If Heyward comes back and plays and the shoulder gets worse are we going to blame Heyward for coming back to early? Are we going to call him a bust? Or, are we going to do the right thing for once and hold Chipper Jones accountable for the pressure he is placing on this young player to come back and ruin his career?

You know what’s sad? I bet if it came down to Chipper or Jason staying on this team everybody would pick Chipper inspite of the obvious.

diggit

June 9th, 2011
11:24 am

.214, a shaky glove, and a gigantic hole in his swing on the inner half that every pitcher in the National League will continue to exploit until/unless he figures it out. And he’s not winning any people over by using his injuries as an excuse. He’s gonna have to hit more HRs to even get to be less of a bust as Franceour

Matt from MN

June 9th, 2011
11:27 am

Given that Chipper has too often, in my opinion, come back too soon from injury, I don’t think J-Hey needs to be taking advice from him. Listen to the Doctor, do the rehab and come back when the doctors say it’s OK.

Chess

June 9th, 2011
11:28 am

Chipper = They call me Mr. Glass…….

JLC

June 9th, 2011
11:29 am

Heyward is quickly turning into the next Cliff Floyd. Loads of potential, but only to give you flashes of it.

Johnny

June 9th, 2011
11:29 am

An injured thumb or shoulder doesn’t make you swing at pitches that are in the dirt!

Bootsie

June 9th, 2011
11:31 am

The question is when is Jones going to stop being the team’s medical doctor and psychiatrist, the hitting coach and the batting coach, in addition to trying to take Freddie Gonzalez’ place as he did with Bobby Cox. I wish Jones would either keep his mouth shut or ride off into the sunset as Cox did.