Jason Heyward might be able to return early next week

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MLB.com’s Mark Bowman has a big update on Braves outfielder Jason Heyward, who faced live pitching on Wednesday for the first time since having his jaw fractured in two places by a Jon Niese fastball August 21:

The Braves are still not providing a definitive timetable for Heyward. But there seems to be reason to believe Heyward could be back in Atlanta’s lineup by Monday, when the club begins its final homestand of the season against the Brewers. His return could help spark an offense that has slumbered since he suffered the unfortunate injury.

“I’ll play it by ear,” Heyward told Bowman, not wanting to commit to a certain return date. “I’m just taking it day by day now. We’ll see what happens this weekend and how I’m feeling when I get back home.”

It was assumed at the time of the injury — and subsequent facial surgery — that the 24-year-old outfielder would have to miss the remainder of the Braves’ 2013 regular season schedule, but the rehabilitation process has been seamless so far and Heyward is keeping his legs and arms in shape while his jaw heals.

Heyward was batting .253/.347/.423 with 13 home runs through 405 plate appearances this season. He’s likely to play center field when he returns, with Evan Gattis manning left field and Justin Upton in right.