Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Updated: June 9, 5:49 PM ET
Chipper Jones calls out Jason Heyward
ESPN.com news services
Outfielder Jason Heyward likely will take the baton soon from third baseman Chipper Jones as the Atlanta Braves' biggest star.
Before that happens, though, Heyward has to learn how to play through pain, according to Jones.
Heyward, who has a sore right shoulder, could have returned from the 15-day disabled list Tuesday, but because he hasn't swung a bat in more than two weeks, he likely won't be back for another week. Heyward likely is still a few days away from hitting off a tee, according to manager Fredi Gonzalez.
The 21-year-old Heyward has said he did not want to return until he's completely healthy. Jones, 39, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the second-year slugger needs to realize how important he is to the Braves, even if he isn't 100 percent.
"I think where Jason might have erred was the comment that he made, 'I'm not coming back until it doesn't hurt anymore.' That has a tendency to rub people the wrong way," Jones told the newspaper. "And we understand where he's coming from -- he wants to be healthy when he plays, so he can go out and give himself the best opportunity to be successful. I get that.
"What Jason needs to realize is that Jason at 80 percent is a force, and Jason at 80 percent is better than a lot of people in this league. And that there are a bunch of his teammates that are out there playing with discomfort and not healthy, and still going at it."
The Braves (33-28) trail the first-place Philadelphia Phillies in the NL East by three games.
Heyward had been in pain since spring training. He has had two MRIs, which have found inflammation of the shoulder but no major problems.
He has struggled this season, batting .214 with seven homers and 14 RBIs in 45 games. He finished second to San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey in 2010 NL Rookie of the Year voting when he hit .277 with 18 home runs and 72 RBIs.
Jones told the Journal-Constitution that playing through pain was something he had to learn to do when he was a young player.
"It's just a situation where, I don't think he really realizes how much of an impact he has on the game just by his presence," Jones told the newspaper. "And that's something I had to learn, too. When I started going through my injuries early on, obviously I wanted to get healthy and whatnot. But I realize that, even now, my presence in the lineup means something, whether I'm healthy or not."