Citi Field is proving to be a dangerous place to be an Atlanta Brave. A little over a month after Tim Hudson’s ankle was broken in a freak collision at first base, Atlanta suffered its second season-ending blow on Wednesday when their lead-off man, Jason Heyward, was hit on the right ear by a pitch from Mets starter, Jon Niese. Heyward collapsed to the ground and was attended to by Braves’ head trainer Jeff Porter.
Though spitting up blood, the outfielder was able to leave the field with minimal assistance and taken to a Manhattan hospital for X-rays. Unfortunately for Atlanta, the results revealed Heyward’s jaw had been fractured in two places and he will likely be sidelined for up to six weeks, effectively ending his regular season.
As with the injury to Tim Hudson, there was no intent or malice behind the incident. It was just one of those accidents that comes as part and parcel of the game of baseball. "It was tough. I wanted to elevate a fastball right there, and then it didn't really slip out of my hands, but it kind of just ran in on him," Niese said. "Obviously no intent, but I just felt bad. It's every pitcher and every hitter's worst nightmare. I just hope he's OK."
With a 15 ½ game lead at the top of the NL East, luckily Heyward’s injury will not be felt by the Braves as badly as it could have been. Unfortunately for Heyward though it means a further loss in playing time. The 24 year old has already missed around a month of the season after undergoing an emergency appendectomy back in April. After a slow start to the season, Heyward has battled back to produce some more-than-respectable numbers and since moving to the lead-off position has hit .345 with a .408 on-base percentage and .586 slugging percentage in 23 games.
Whilst Heyward recovers, the Braves have several options to replace the Gold Glove outfielder. Evan Gattis could see more playing time in Left Field, as could Joey Terdoslavich. Justin Upton will likely fill in for Heyward in Right Field, with Jordan Schafer and B.J. Upton competing for Center Field. However it works out, Heyward will be missed by his teammates. “Wow. Crushed by this JHey news” tweeted Chris Johnson, whilst shortstop Andrelton Simmons tweeted “Prayers for @JasonHeyward Hoping for good news so he can be back soon with us doing his thing”.
Braves manager, Fredi Gonzalez, laughed off suggestions of a Citi Field jinx on his team. "It's not the ballpark, it's just a matter of freak stuff happening. It can happen anywhere” he noted. As yet there has been no word from Heyward directly, but the entire Braves nation wishes him a speedy recovery.
Incidentally, the Braves went on to beat the Mets 4-1 in extra innings, with a 3-run home run from Johnson the difference.
21 August 2013