Heyward gets taste of the bigs

Heyward gets taste of the bigs

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Jason Heyward will have to wait at least a couple of more years before getting a chance to taste the Majors. But the Braves gave their physically gifted, prized prospect a taste of big league life before exiting Florida on Thursday.

For their Grapefruit League season finale against the Mets at Disney's Champion Stadium on Thursday afternoon, the Braves dressed a number of their Minor Leaguers, including Heyward, who they selected with the 14th overall pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft.

Heyward learned that he'd get his opportunity late Wednesday night, and by Thursday morning, the 6-foot-5, 230-pound outfielder was taking batting practice under the watchful eyes of Braves manager Bobby Cox and hitting coach Terry Pendleton.

But the 18-year-old outfielder, who at this time last year was playing for Henry County High School in suburban Atlanta, said that he wasn't feeling nervous.

"Nerve-racking time is over with now," Heyward said. "I'm in professional baseball now. It's time to relax and have a good time."

Heyward replaced Jeff Francoeur in right field during the fourth inning and then struck out during a sixth-inning at-bat against Mets left-hander Oliver Perez.

Heyward will likely start this season as Class A Rome's right fielder. He signed late last year, and he combined to play in just 12 games for the Gulf Coast Braves and rookie level Danville.

After arriving for Spring Training for the first time this year, Heyward homered in both of his first two Minor League exhibition games.

"This was my first Spring Training, and I was already having fun," Heyward said. "This just adds to it."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.