Heyward on DL, though MRI checks out

Heyward on DL, though MRI checks out

ATLANTA -- Jason Heyward may simply be a bystander if he is elected to this year's All-Star Game. But by resting over the course of the next couple of weeks, the Braves right fielder hopes to regain the form that he had when he spent this season's first two months proving to be one of the game's most exciting players.

After reviewing the results of an MRI exam that was performed Monday morning, Braves physician Dr. Gary Lourie found no structural damage in Heyward's left thumb. Still, with the understanding that their 20-year-old right fielder needs to rest the ailment, the Braves opted to place him on the 15-day disabled list.

Matt Diaz will be activated from the disabled list on Tuesday to fill the vacated roster spot. Coincidently, Diaz has been sidelined because of a right thumb infection since May 14, the same day that Heyward injured his left thumb with a headfirst slide into third base.

"It's a deep bone bruise," Braves manager Bobby Cox said in reference to Heyward. "That's all it is. The only way it's going to get better is to get better."

Heyward would be eligible to be activated from the disabled list during the All-Star break. He received a cortisone shot on Monday and his thumb will be immobilized for six days by a cast that will be fitted on Tuesday.

"We're doing the best thing, I believe," Heyward said. "It's a good opportunity to get it done, get the rest in, get the strength back and be able to come back in the second half."

If he holds his current position, Heyward will be the second-youngest rookie to be elected to start an All-Star Game. While he might not be cleared to play, there's a chance he would still travel to Anaheim to participate in the festivities surrounding the All-Star Game, which will be held on July 13 at Angel Stadium.

Heyward also feels there may be a need for him to spend those days on a Minor League rehab assignment. The Braves open the second half of the season on July 15, and the young outfielder hopes to be in the lineup that night against the Brewers.

"Whatever [Major League Baseball] says they would like to have happen," said Heyward. "If I can go and give thanks to the fans by showing up, then I would like to. If MLB says we respect what the Braves want for Jason and they want him to rehab and play some games before he comes back, then I'm hoping to do that also."

After injuring his thumb, Heyward started 38 of the next 39 games played by the Braves. Even though he hasn't had an at-bat since Friday night, he still exited Turner Field on Monday night feeling some discomfort.

"I haven't been banging it up or making it worse," Heyward said. "But it does still hurt, and I do still feel the pain in it."

The inability to grip a bat with his left hand has severely hindered the left-handed slugger's production. In the first 46 games of his career, he hit .301 with 10 homers, 35 strikeouts and a 1.017 OPS.

During the 99 at-bats he totaled in his past 25 games, he hit .172 with just one homer, 33 strikeouts and a .507 OPS. Heyward believes his struggles are a product of the mechanical adjustments he made while attempting to play through the pain.

"This is not a step backward," Heyward said. "It's going forward."