Braves outfielder Jason Heyward underwent surgery today after he fractured his right jaw when he was hit in the face by a pitch from Mets’ left-hander Jon Niese yesterday. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal has the latest news on when we can expect to see him on the field again:
Heyward was originally estimated to miss 4-6 weeks, so this isn’t exactly a surprising development. Mark Bowman of MLB.com notes that Heyward didn’t have to have his jaw wired shut after surgery, which is encouraging news for his ability to maintain strength during his rehab process, but he’s far from a lock to make it back for the postseason. And even if he does, it’s fair to wonder how the time off will affect him. Jordan Schafer and Evan Gattis will both be asked to take on larger roles in the Braves’ outfield moving forward.
Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.
Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.
Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.
What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.
That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.