Jason Heyward hits off tee, will take batting practice soon

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Braves outfielder Jason Heyward has been on the 15-day disabled list since May 22 with soreness in his right shoulder and was called out recently by teammate Chipper Jones for not playing through minor injuries. Perhaps motivated by Chipper’s harsh words, Heyward took a big step toward returning Friday at extending spring training.

According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the 21-year-old right fielder hit off a tee and preformed “other baseball activities” down in Lake Buena Vista, Florida while reporting no issues with his shoulder. It was the first time he had swung a bat in three weeks.

The Braves are expected to begin ramping up Heyward’s rehab schedule this weekend. He should be taking batting practice and participating in extended spring training games within the next several days.

Heyward was batting just .214/.317/.407 with seven home runs and 14 RBI before his most recent injury. He finished the 2010 season with a promising .277/.393/.456 slash line, 72 RBI and 18 home runs.

Sandy Leon homered twice in one inning, including a grand slam

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Red Sox catcher Sandy Leon achieved a rare feat during Monday afternoon’s Grapefruit League exhibition against the Orioles: he homered twice in one inning. One of those homers happened to be a grand slam.

Leon led off the top of the fifth inning with a solo home run off of Logan Verrett. Verrett continued to get knocked around, giving up three singles and a walk before being relieved by Brian Moran. Moran gave up a walk to load the bases, then a single to knock in a run and keep the bases loaded. Leon stepped back to the plate and swatted a grand slam to left field, making it an eight-run fifth for the Red Sox. The Sox would tack on one more before the inning was mercifully ended.

How often do players homer twice in one inning during the regular season? Not that often. Since 2010, the feat has been accomplished four times in the American League and twice in the National League. The Orioles’ Mark Trumbo was the only one to do it last year.

As for Leon, he’s on track to open the season as the starting catcher in Boston, Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald reported last week.

Phillies release veteran catchers Ryan Hanigan and Bryan Holaday

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The Phillies announced on Monday that the club released veteran catchers Ryan Hanigan and Bryan Holaday. Both were competing for the back-up catcher spot on the team’s 25-man roster. With both out of the picture, that means Andrew Knapp has won that honor.

Knapp, 25, hit a combined .266/.330/.390 with eight home runs and 46 RBI in 443 plate appearances last year at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He did not have a great spring but has hit well as of late, which likely pushed him ahead of Hanigan and Holaday. Knapp will serve as the understudy to starting catcher Cameron Rupp.