Heyward's speed a surprise perk for Braves

Heyward's speed a surprise perk for Braves

Heyward's speed a surprise perk for Braves
ATLANTA -- Manager Fredi Gonzalez talked during Spring Training about the Braves being more aggressive on the bases this season, and the team's stolen-base total was bound to be higher with Michael Bourn around all year.

Jason Heyward's early success stealing bases has caught many people off-guard, though. Heyward, however, isn't one of them.

"My goal was to run more," said the outfielder, who dropped weight in the offseason. "I ran a lot this winter, did a lot of sprint work. I think I'm faster."

That's apparent.

After stealing second base on Friday and third base on Saturday, Heyward went into Sunday's game against the Pirates a perfect 8-for-8 in stolen-base attempts.

The steal total was one more than Bourn, who had been caught three times, and Heyward was fourth in the National League through Saturday.

"It doesn't surprise me. For a big guy, he can run," Gonzalez said. "He's smart about it, too. He doesn't run just to run."

Opposing teams will obviously start paying more and more attention to Heyward. But for now, he is getting big leads and picking just the right times to take off.

Three of the steals have been of third base and his eighth-inning swipe on Saturday helped the Braves pull within two runs in a 4-2 loss to the Pirates.

"The way I was taught to steal bases is you're not going unless you're sure you can make it," Heyward said. "But if you are running in the right situation, you can't stop running if you do get thrown out."

Heyward was 11-for-17 as a rookie and 9-for-11 last year, when his batting average declined from .277 to .227. He was hitting .288 this season entering Sunday.