Atypical leadoff man Heyward handling top spot

Atypical leadoff man Heyward handling top spot

MIAMI -- Since struggling through this season's first week, Jason Heyward has proven why the Braves are confident that he will continue to be a productive catalyst at the top of their lineup.

Those who simply look at the fact that Heyward ranks ninth among all National League leadoff men with a .330 on-base percentage might still be clamoring for the Braves to find a different option. But those who take into account that he has hit .264 with a .348 on-base percentage in the 44 games played dating back to April 9, realize a large sample size has provided manager Fredi Gonzalez reason to continue putting his athletic right fielder in the first spot of his lineup.

"He's our best option and he's a good option," Gonzalez said. "I don't know if we have another option on our club as good as him."

Heyward batted .206 with a .297 on-base percentage in the 34 games he played through May 10. In the 17 games that have followed entering Friday, he has batted .318 with a .400 on-base percentage and three home runs, two of which have been hit this week.

"I see him continuing to do that," Gonzalez said. "He's about as steady as they come when he's healthy. He'll keep getting a hit here and there and getting on base. If you make a mistake, he'll run you out of the ballpark. By the end of the year, he'll be at .285 with his normal numbers."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.