Heyward back in lineup despite bruised hand
Braves outfielder feeling better after being plunked during Friday's contest
ATLANTA -- As manager Fredi Gonzalez drove to Turner Field early Saturday afternoon, he wondered whether outfielder Jason Heyward would be in the Braves' lineup a few hours later.
Gonzalez received his answer around 12:45 p.m. ET, when Heyward informed him that the minimal discomfort in his bruised right hand would not prevent him from playing in what proved to be an 11-6, 13-inning loss to the Angels.
"It's always good to see a player who was injured the night before get in early the next day and want to get in the lineup," Gonzalez said. "That's a dream for a manager."
Heyward's hand, which was bruised by C.J. Wilson's pitch in the first inning of Friday's 4-3 win, did not seem to bother him as he recorded a pair of hits in Saturday's marathon affair. He singled in a run during a four-run ninth inning and produced a shattered-bat game-tying single in the 10th inning.
"He's fine," Gonzalez said. "Believe it or not, we played 13 innings and everybody got through it fine."
Heyward was also somewhat surprised that he was able to return to action immediately. Though X-rays had already confirmed that Heyward did not suffer a fracture, he did not know how his right hand would react overnight.
"I'm surprised at how good I felt this morning waking up," Heyward said. "Prayer works ... I didn't know what to expect. I know we iced it plenty last night. I slept with a wrap on my hand. It's better than I expected, but I honestly didn't know what to think."
Heyward remained in Friday's game until he was replaced by pinch-hitter Jordan Schafer during the bottom of the second inning. By the time Saturday morning arrived, Heyward was no longer bothered by the inflammation and stiffness that had led to his exit.
The Braves were certainly happy to see Heyward avoid being reintroduced to the misfortunes he experienced last year, when he experienced separate month-long disabled list stints because of an emergency appendectomy and a fractured jaw.
Heyward has batted .305 with a .365 on-base percentage in his past 25 games.
"He knows his body pretty darn well," Gonzalez said. "I think yesterday kind of spooked him a little bit. He's banged up all the time, but I'm glad everything worked out well."
• Gonzalez's reluctance to move Tommy La Stella up to the lineup's No. 2 spot has been influenced by the fact that the Braves' second baseman would be sandwiched between two other left-handed hitters -- Heyward and Freddie Freeman. This would leave the Braves susceptible to left-handed relief specialists.
But because the Angels do not have a southpaw in their bullpen, Gonzalez said he at least flirted with moving La Stella from the seven-hole to the two-hole for Saturday's game.
"You get what you want out of the top of the order and then you don't get anything out of the bottom," Gonzalez said. "So you're robbing Peter to pay Paul. At least leaving Tommy in the seven-hole, you can kind of keep the line moving."
La Stella entered Saturday having hit .367 with a .457 on-base percentage in the 14 games he had played dating to his Major League debut on May 28.
• Entering Saturday, B.J. Upton was hitting .217 with a .294 on-base percentage in the 47 games he has manned the lineup's No. 2 spot.
• Freeman is expected to be out of the starting lineup for the first time this season during one of the eight games the Braves will play before their off-day on June 23. The first baseman has hit .188 with two homers and a .665 OPS in his past 23 games.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.