LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As he prepares to serve as the Braves' leadoff hitter this year, Jason Heyward knows he will have plenty of opportunities to score on hits by Justin Upton. But he can only hope the scare he received in the first inning of Saturday's game against the Marlins was not the start of a trend.
As Heyward took his lead off third base, he narrowly avoided a rocket line drive Upton pulled foul down the third-base line. After regaining his composure, Heyward playfully started moving toward the Marlins' third-base side dugout.
"He was saying he was feeling good all day, and I said, 'I can't wait to see you in the game,'" said Heyward. "But I didn't want to see it that close. ... If it was up to me, I would have sat down in the dugout and had a ghost runner."
Fortunately for Heyward, Upton directed the next pitch thrown by Jacob Turner down the right-field line for a double that started his two-hit, three-RBI performance. Upton's impressive afternoon also included a lineout to left field in the second inning.
Upton entered Saturday hitting .167 (2-for-12). A sore right side forced him to miss the first four days of the Grapefruit League season.
"You just need your repetitions at the plate," Upton said. "I'm starting to get a few more at-bats. My timing was good today and my swing was good. So it was a good day."
Heyward also had a productive day as he singled in each of his three at-bats. This performance extended his momentum from Friday, when he hit his second home run of the Grapefruit League season against the Red Sox.
Since recording just two hits in his first 14 at-bats, Heyward has gone 6-for-9 and believes he is moving closer to where he wants to be when the regular season begins.
"Right now, I seem to have it down pat for a little bit," Heyward said. "I'm just trying to ride that out. I'm just treating this like the season. I'm obviously not going out there to get myself hurt. But I'm just going out there every day and making the most of the games."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less