Jason Heyward is working on bunting

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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.

Nick Senzel to miss a few weeks due to ankle injury

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Reds prospect Nick Senzel will miss at least the next few weeks due to a sprained right ankle, Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Senzel suffered the injury in a minor league game on Monday, sliding into second base.

Last week, the Reds reassigned Senzel to minor league camp. His agent, Joel Wolfe, called it an “egregious case of service time manipulation.” The matter has been cleanly resolved with the injury, not unlike Vladimir Guerrero, Jr.

Senzel, 23, is the Reds’ No. 1 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. He was getting work in center field this spring after playing second and third base last year (and even a game at shortstop) in the minors. With Triple-A Louisville, Senzel hit .310/.378/.509 with six home runs and 25 RBI in 193 plate appearances.