Jason Heyward: MLB’s best No. 6 hitter

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For the second straight Opening Day, Jason Heyward homered in his first at-bat Thursday, drilling a Livan Hernandez offering barely over the wall in right field in the second inning.

As it turned out, it was the Braves’ second and final run of the day.  Heyward received just two more plate appearances, walking in one of them.  Fortunately, Derek Lowe was sharp and the bullpen was stellar, so Atlanta won 2-0 anyway.

But as we’ve been wondering all spring, what exactly is Jason Heyward doing batting sixth?

New Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez made it clear over the winter that he wanted to stick Heyward there as long as Chipper Jones was healthy enough to occupy the third spot.  And Heyward hitting a ridiculous .356/.508/.511 in 45 at-bats this spring didn’t change his mind.

The 21-year-old Heyward is well on his way to becoming one of baseball’s best hitters.  He may get there this year.  He hit .297/.393/.456 as a rookie.  Only three National Leaguers had higher on-base percentages (Joey Votto, Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder).

Of the 15 National Leaguers to get on base at least 37 percent of the time last year, Heyward is the only one currently hitting below the cleanup spot in the lineup.  They’re the cream of the crop.  So likely is Heyward.  However, Gonzalez apparently would prefer Heyward get one fewer at-bat than Nate McLouth every other game.

And that’s just crazy.  Sure, one wants Heyward to drive in runs, too, but it’s not like he wouldn’t have chances batting second behind Martin Prado.   And putting him there would result in more RBI chances for Jones and Brian McCann.   Three of Chipper’s four at-bats today came with none on and two outs.  That probably wouldn’t have been the case had Heyward been batting in front of him.

Report: Glen Perkins will retire from baseball

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According to MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger, Twins GM Thad Levine told 1390 Granite City Sports that reliever Glen Perkins will retire.

Perkins, 34, has battled shoulder injuries over the last two years, limiting him to a total of 7 2/3 innings between 2016-17. His decision doesn’t come as much of a surprise given the circumstances. The Twins declined his $6.5 million club option back in October, making him a free agent.

Across parts of 12 seasons, all with the Twins, Perkins compiled a 3.88 ERA with 120 saves and a 504/158 K/BB ratio in 624 1/3 innings. He ranked among baseball’s best closers from 2013-15, racking up 102 of those saves with a 3.08 ERA. The lefty made the American League All-Star team in each of those three seasons.