Posted: 6:24 pm Saturday, March 8th, 2014
By David O'Brien
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – With three more hits Saturday, Braves right fielder Jason Heyward has hits in five consecutive plate appearances and six of his past seven. That included a home run Friday against the Red Sox, the second of the spring for the majors’ largest leadoff man.
“Timing’s been good,” Heyward said of his recent success at the plate, which has raised his average to .348 (8-for-23) and his OPS to nearly 1.000 in an admittedly small sample size.
“That’s all you can do is try to be on time, try to get good pitches to hit, put them in play,” said Heyward, who is approaching spring games just as he would regular-season games. “Try to take the spring-training feel out of it, go up there with the mindset that I have to get it done. Put the ball in play and good things will happen. Get on base and have an opportunity to run the bases.”
He was driven in twice Saturday by Justin Upton, who went 2-for-3 with three RBIs, and might’ve had a 3-for-3, five-RBI game if not for a difficult running catch in the left-center gap by Marlins left fielder Brian Bogusevic with two on and two out in the second inning of a game that ended in a 6-all tie.
Upton was 2-for-12 for the spring before Saturday, when he did some extra work with hitting coach Greg Walker in the morning and found something that clicked in his approach at the plate.
With Heyward leading off of third base in the first inning, Upton nearly hit him in the leg with a fouled line drive that Heyward leaped out of the way to avoid. Heyward laughed it off, but then lined up about six feet outside the line for next pitch. Upton then hit an opposite-field double the other way to the right-field corner to score him for a 1-0 lead.
“He said he was feeling good all day, and I said, I can’t wait to see you in the game,” Heyward said. He smiled and added, “I didn’t want to see it that close, though.”