ATLANTA -- Jason Heyward's patience will continue to be tested as he spends at least a couple of more weeks sidelined with a fractured jaw. But the Braves outfielder gained some encouragement when he was cleared to begin playing catch and hitting off a tee on Tuesday.
Heyward was back in uniform as he played catch with his teammates as they prepared to take batting practice before Tuesday night's game against the Mets. This marked the first time he participated in on-field baseball activities since his jaw was fractured by Mets left-handed pitcher Jon Niese's 90-mph fastball on Aug. 21.
"It felt good for me, my teammates and my coaches," Heyward said. "I was excited to get the process started. It happened sooner than I would have expected."
The past two weeks have tested the patience of Heyward, who has been able to consume some solid foods that are chopped up and placed in liquids. The 24-year-old outfielder playfully said he cried when he was permitted to eat Chick-fil-A on Monday.
As Heyward walked through the clubhouse Tuesday, he was wearing a batting helmet that had a protective faceguard attached to it. He has said that he would likely at least attempt to get used to wearing this faceguard over the next couple of weeks.
While the Braves are not providing a definitive timetable for Heyward's return, it still appears they are hopeful that he will return during the latter portion of this month, in time to play at least a handful of games leading into the postseason.
Gattis returns to Braves, belts game-tying homer
ATLANTA -- Evan Gattis certainly knows how to make his presence known. The Braves' rookie slugger homered in his first career plate appearance back in April and then spent Tuesday night's 3-1 win over the Mets marking his return to the Major League level in an authoritative manner.
Gattis recorded a pair of singles with the first two swings he took and then drilled a game-tying seventh-inning home run off Carlos Torres that gave the Braves more reason to feel good that they had sent him to their Triple-A Gwinnett club over the previous three days to get the consistent at-bats he had not been recently getting at the big league level.
"He went down there and he took it the right way," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He went down there and worked on his swing. He got 13 at-bats that he might not have been able to get in that time span up here and it worked."
When the Braves returned from St. Louis on Aug. 25, they began thinking about what to do with Gattis, who had totaled 18 plate appearances over the previous 14 days and was in the midst of a 38-game stretch in which he batted .185 (22-for-119) with a .543 OPS.
The club decided it would be best to get him regular at-bats with Gwinnett. But the move was not made for another four days, until after Gattis was honored during last Friday night's already-planned El Oso Blanco Night at Turner Field. Gattis was optioned immediately after that night's 2-1 win over the Marlins, during which he drew an intentional walk as a pinch-hitter.
Still the transaction provided Gattis enough time to regain some confidence and reacquaint himself to getting regular at-bats. In the three games he played for Gwinnett, he went 6-for-13 with three doubles and a home run -- the last one ever hit at Knights Stadium, the longtime home of the Charlotte Knights.
Gattis' brief stint with Gwinnett helped him regain the aggressive approach he had when he hit .285 with 12 homers and a .965 OPS in the first 42 games of his career this year.
The aggression was certainly on display as he swung at the first five pitches he saw from Torres and then looked at one before lining the next one over the left-center-field wall in the seventh inning. The game-tying shot capped a memorable three-hit performance and accounted for his first home run since July 24.
"It was definitely exciting," Gattis said. "It had been a while."
Walden cuts bullpen session short due to groin issue
ATLANTA -- Braves reliever Jordan Walden needed only five pitches during his bullpen session on Monday afternoon to know the nagging groin issues he has been dealing with still felt a few days away from subsiding. After cutting that throwing workout short, Walden has moved back into wait-and-see mode, confirming that the Braves must continue to be creative in navigating the later innings until one of their top setup men returns.
"When you're dealing with legs and groins and that kind of stuff, you just have to wait and see and go from there," manager Fredi Gonzalez said on Tuesday. "I'm still optimistic that he'll get it cranked up again in the next week or so. Hopefully, anyway, because that's a big piece in our bullpen."
Walden has not pitched since an impressive two-inning appearance on Aug. 21 in which he struck out four Mets and threw a total of 25 pitches. The soreness developed while he was jogging before a game in St. Louis just after the two-game series in New York, and Gonzalez has been forced to transfer his typical workload to fellow setup man Luis Avilan and other members of the bullpen ever since. Avilan worked a scoreless ninth inning to close out yesterday's 13-5 win over the Mets, a situation that would not typically call for one of the team's top relievers.
The recent additions of Freddy Garcia and Kameron Loe give the Braves two long-relief options down the stretch that will protect the rest of the bullpen on days when the score gets out of hand or a starter is forced into an early exit. When Walden is able to return, Gonzalez will be able to reset his relievers into their accustomed situational roles. Thanks to the September expansion of the maximum number of players on the roster from 25 to 40, the Braves can go day to day with the right-hander in dealing with the temperamental nature of his groin injury.
"I think if this happened before September, he's a [disabled list] candidate," Gonzalez said. "Now you don't have to DL him. You can wait day to day with him and bring a couple guys up to cover."
• The Braves have not yet made a decision about the next step for starter Brandon Beachy, who turned 27 years old on Tuesday, in his recovery from right elbow inflammation. The right-hander made five starts beginning in late July before landing on the 15-day disabled list shortly after his six-inning start against the Mets on Aug. 20.
• The Braves traded Minor League catcher Matt Pagnozzi to the Astros for cash considerations on Tuesday. In 90 games this season for Triple-A Gwinnett, Pagnozzi hit .210 with six home runs and 31 RBIs.
• Outfielder Jordan Schafer said he felt fine one day after he was forced to leave Monday's win with a lower back strain. Schafer felt his back tighten and spasm on a swing in the seventh inning and left the game after collecting his fourth hit on the next pitch.
"It's fine today," he said. "It's not wound up in a knot anymore."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. Eric Single is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.