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April 12, 2012

What You Need to Know

Thursday, April 12

by Daniel Rathman

The Wednesday Takeaway
The Braves are counting on bounce-back campaigns from their corner outfielders and contributions from their high-ceiling pitching prospects as they look to return to the top of the NL East standings for the first time since 2005. If Wednesday night’s 6-3 victory over the Astros is any indication, they may get them.

Starter Randall Delgado earned the win for Atlanta, tossing five innings of two-run ball and striking out six. But the bigger story was right fielder Jason Heyward, who made his presence felt throughout the game and might be ready to resume his rise to stardom.

The 22-year-old Heyward was plagued by a nagging rotator cuff injury in 2011, spending 24 days on the disabled list and appearing in just 128 games. Lingering pain in that right shoulder affected Heyward’s swing long after he returned, leading to a lackluster offensive season. Heyward’s TAv plummeted from .304 in his rookie year to .254 in his sophomore campaign, so while he continued to play solid defense in right, his overall value went from 3.9 WARP to 0.5.

On Wednesday, though, Heyward seemed to be back to his old self. He went 3-for-4, stole his second base of the year, scampered home on a suicide squeeze, and went deep for the first time this season. The home run was particularly significant, because Heyward managed just two big flies from August 7 on last year. And the eighth-inning blast off Houston reliever Fernando Rodriguez wasn’t a cheapie.

Through 21 plate appearances, Heyward is batting .316/.381/.632. It’s a small sample size, but he seems back on track for a career that Kevin Goldstein two years ago wrote could be “off the charts.”

What to Watch for on Thursday

  • Mat Latos’ Reds debut—during which he lasted just 4 2/3 innings, allowed seven hits (four for extra bases), and watched the Marlins run wild—didn’t exactly go as planned. Gio Gonzalez’s first start for the Nationals wasn’t much better; he threw 74 pitches, yet failed to complete the fourth inning. The two winter movers will square off at Nationals Park on Thursday (1:05 p.m. ET), with each looking for his first win in his new uniform.
  • The Indians tried and failed to nab Bobby Abreu from the Angels in the waning days of the offseason. Late Wednesday, they came to terms with another veteran, left-handed hitting outfielder: Johnny Damon. The 38-year-old is likely to need a week to get into game shape, but he was a two-win player for the Rays last season and should find ample playing time with the Tribe currently relying on Shelley Duncan and Aaron Cunningham in left field.
  • Jamie Moyer is set to make his second bid to become the oldest pitcher in league history to win a game. The 49-year-old was on the losing end of a 7-3 decision against the Astros on Saturday, and he’ll now have to contend with the thin air at Coors Field for the first time. His opponent will be the Giants (3:10 p.m. ET) and 22-year-old lefty Madison Bumgarner—which means, if you’re scoring at home, that the pitching matchup will include an age gap of 26 years, eight months, and 14 days. 

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

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