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Heyward not concerned by slow start

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PITTSBURGH -- Jason Heyward has found little reason to be concerned about the mechanics of his swing. But the Braves' right fielder believes he will have to take a better approach at the plate to escape the maddening struggles he has experience through the regular season's first three weeks.

"I feel like I just have to stay patient and get good pitches to hit," Heyward said. "Even though I do have a bad man [Justin Upton] hitting behind me, they still don't want to make too many mistakes with me this year."

Opposing pitchers have certainly gained more reason to cautiously approach Upton, who entered Sunday with a Major League-leading nine home runs.

But Heyward has not yet taken advantage of the luxury of hitting in front of Upton. Before getting a chance to rest and clear his head during Sunday afternoon's series finale against the Pirates, Heyward had batted .121 (7-for-58) with two home runs and a .519 OPS.

"I really don't look at the numbers until it's said and done," Heyward said. "I just try to do as many things right as possible, and try to win as many ballgames by doing what I can at the dish, on defense and running the bases."

According to Fangraphs.com, Heyward has swung hat 40.9 percent of the pitches he has seen, and 39.4 percent of those pitches have been inside the strike zone. These numbers indicate he is actually being slightly more disciplined than he was last year, when he swung at 46.3 percent of the pitches he saw, with 43.5 percent of those pitches being in the strike zone.

"I don't feel like I'm seeing it bad," Heyward said. "I just feel like I've got to make sure I'm getting good pitches to hit."

Heyward has batted .121 (4-for-33) with a .310 on-base percentage and .333 slugging percentage against right-handed pitchers. His struggles against left-handers have continued, as he has hit .120 (3-for-25) with a .185 on-base percentage and .160 slugging percentage against southpaws.

With the Pirates throwing their third left-hander -- Jonathan Sanchez -- in a span of four days, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez determined it was best to give Heyward a chance to rest on Sunday.

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

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