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Jason Heyward is working on bunting

Mar 1, 2013, 11:00 PM EDT

Jason Heyward AP

Braves outfielder Jason Heyward hit 30 doubles and 27 home runs last season, both career bests. Early in spring training, though, the slugger is working on playing small ball. In the fifth inning of today’s game against the Washington Nationals, Heyward laid down a bunt, reaching first base safely while moving Reed Johnson to second base.

Both Heyward and manager Fredi Gonzalez expect it to be a part of the right fielder’s game going forward. Via AJC’s Michael Cunningham:

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez’s said Heyward can present a threat with bunts.

“He’s got to work on that,” Gonzalez said. “Last year (opponents) really shifted him. They over-shifted at times. He’s got to really make them respect that bunt. With his speed, he gets on base, it could be (like) a double (with steals). It could be extra bases.”

[snip]

“If I’m going to be in the two hole, eventually I’m going to have to get (bunts) down,” Heyward said. “Down here is the time to get that work in and build the confidence of doing it during the season.”

Gonzalez is right about opposing defenses. A majority of Heyward’s ground ball outs went to the right side of the infield last year. With the threat of a bunt, opposing defenses will have to play honest by shifting less heavily to the right side, opening up the field to the left-hander.

  1. Tarkus - Mar 1, 2013 at 11:07 PM

    If you’re the manager, and you have Jason Heyward bunting, you’re not doing it right.

    • Kevin S. - Mar 1, 2013 at 11:17 PM

      If it’s the occasional bunt to beat the shift, it’s a good idea. They’re giving you first base for free, and eventually it will force them into a more conventional infield alignment, which increases the likelihood of his ground balls becoming hits when he swings away. Knowing Fredi though, and the way he gave that quote, I’m terrified we’re going to see a bunch of sac bunting out of Heyward, and that’s definitely doing it wrong.

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