Heyward’s Shoulder – Normal Wear And Tear?
By Fred Owens
The David O’Brien’s blog over at the AJC reported tonight that a second, more detailed MRI confirmed no structural damage to Jason Heyward’s shoulder. That’s good news of course as it means no surgeries or an extended time away.
Fredi Gonzales indicated that the Braves are going to let him take plenty of time to get over whatever it is and not rush him back too soon. He’ll go to Orlando for extended spring and then to Gwinnett. That makes a lot of sense as he has to get his swing back so he doesn’t become strikeout Heyward. The Skipper’s quote at the beginning of that post did make me raise my eyebrows.
"“Just normal wear-and-tear of a normal major league shoulder, some inflammation,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.”"
Heyward’s played 184 major league games totaling 1196 1/3 innings and handled 311 chance with 290 put outs. I don’t know how many swings of the bat he’s had (the sore shoulder is not his throwing shoulder) but it seems to me he’s a little young to be showing that much wear and tear. He is after all just 21. The much maligned in Atlanta Jeff Francoeur has played in 877 games totaling 7634 2/3 innings and swings as wildly and hard as anyone yet his normal wear and tear hasn’t put him on the DL. In fact I can’t think of an outfielder going on the DL for his non-throwing shoulder caused by a swing at any time much less in his first two years. (I’m sure someone will point one out to me soon after I post this.) So here’s the question, what could he have done swinging the bat two months ago that’s still bothering him now but doesn’t show on an MRI?
Heyward has only said vaguely that he felt it after a swing, not that the swing caused it. It’s hard to imagine a swing causing such an injury to the non-throwing arm. Besides just because he felt it after a swing doesn’t mean the swing caused it.
I remember a couple of slides in late spring training games where Heyward went head first into third and only held the bag by grabbing it as he slid over the top. I also remember him getting up and waving the arm around as if to loosen it up. I can’t help but wonder if one of those slides caused the injury and knowing the uproar after he injured his thumb, he decided not to blame that so that he doesn’t have to answer those questions again.
The point is that Heyward is already earning the fragile tag and being compared to other famously talented, always injured players like former Brave Bob Horner. He is absolutely a highly talented player; a five tool player when healthy. Every now and then his route to a fly ball looks like a flight plan created by Wrong Way Corrigan and some simple catches elude him even when the lights aren’t in his eyes. But he’s a major talent whose being counted on to be a part of the Braves future for a long time. The Braves should know what caused the injury and when it happened, even if they don’t tell us- though common sense dictates that they should.
Before the season started I and many others were wondering how many games Chipper Jones would play this year not Jason Heyward. After tonight’s debacle against Mike Leake and the Reds, Chipper has played 47 games and Heyward 45.
If the injury is caused by normal wear and tear and not some play related incident perhaps they should start looking for a less fragile, prematurely worn out replacement before he’s a broken down wreck of a player, say about 5 years from now when he’s 26.