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.

Rakuten Golden Eagles sign Jabari Blash

Jabari Blash
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Former Angels outfielder Jabari Blash has signed a one-year deal with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Nippon Professional Baseball, the team announced Friday. Per the Japan Times, the deal is said to be worth around $1.06 million. Blash was released from his contract with the Angels at the end of November.

The 29-year-old outfielder has had a rough go of it in the majors, where he failed to duplicate the promising results he delivered in the minors. While he consistently batted above .250 with 20-30 home runs per season at the Double- and Triple-A level, he petered out in back-to-back gigs with the Padres and Angels and slumped toward a .103/.200/.128 finish across 45 PA for Anaheim in 2018.

The hope, of course, is that the environment in NPB will help him get a better handle on his issues at the plate — in a best case scenario, resulting in a full-scale transformation that could make him more marketable to MLB teams in the future. To that end, Blash expects to be utilized as a cleanup batter in the Eagles’ lineup and will focus on assisting the club as they make a run toward the Japan Series.