ATLANTA -- Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman certainly has the credentials to be considered an expert in relation to Jason Heyward. The two were introduced as high school seniors and linked as they spent each of their first three professional seasons together in Atlanta's Minor League system.
Thus there was certainly reason to listen when Freeman evaluated what he has seen from Heyward, who entered Monday night's game against the Mets hitting .345 (10-for-29) with two home runs and a 1.079 OPS.
"What he's doing is what we all know [he can do]," Freeman said. "It's awesome. He's finally healthy, and you've gotten to see the Jason of 2010 and the Jason that I've gotten to see since 2006."
After spending most of January and all of Spring Training working with Braves new hitting coaches Greg Walker and Scott Fletcher, Heyward entered this season knowing he would have to be patient. This proved necessary when he recorded three hits in his first 15 at-bats.
But while recording seven hits, including two home runs, in the 14 at-bats that have followed, Heyward has provided more reason to believe he has escaped some of the bad habits that developed as he battled right shoulder discomfort all of last year.
"He's having fun playing the game and he's healthy," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Last year, nothing was sticking out of his skin or anything. But he didn't feel right. This year, he is feeling good. ... When he has fun and hits, we have fun also."
Heyward hit just .192 (20-for-104) against left-handed pitchers last year. But he has five hits in his first 14 at-bats against southpaws this year. The 392-foot homer he hit directly down the right-field line in Sunday's win over the Brewers came against a changeup thrown by Milwaukee left-hander Chris Narveson.