Braves right fielder Jason Heyward reacts after getting hit in the face by a fastball from Mets pitcher Jonathon Niese on Wednesday as Mets catcher John Buck and home plate umpire Greg Gibson come to his aid. Heyward is expected to miss four to six weeks with a fractured jaw, but he could miss the entire season. (Reuters News Service)
NEW YORK — The Braves’ short two-game series in New York wasn’t quite short enough. The team watched their dynamic young right fielder Jason Heyward get struck in the right jaw by a Jonathon Niese fastball in the sixth inning Wednesday, giving the Braves another horrific-looking injury at Citi Field in their past two trips here.
X-rays revealed that Heyward’s jaw was fractured in two places, and on Thursday he had two plates surgically placed in his jaw by Dr. Glenn Maron in Atlanta. He is expected to miss four to six weeks but could be out the rest of the season.
Almost a month ago, July 24, when the Braves were last here, Tim Hudson fractured his ankle on a gruesome play when Eric Young Jr. stepped on his leg crossing first base.
Oddly enough, the Braves won both of those games, including Wednesday 4-1 on a three-run, 10th-inning home run by Chris Johnson. The Braves had rallied to even the score 1-1 two batters after Heyward gingerly walked off the field under his own power.
Heyward was taken to a Manhattan-area hospital and stayed there with Braves trainer Jeff Porter to undergo X-rays and further evaluation as the Braves headed for St. Louis. Heyward had been a key catalyst during the Braves’ recent 20-4 run. He was batting .349 (30-for-86) in the past 22 games since Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez moved him into the leadoff spot, with 24 runs and 15 RBIs.
When asked immediately after the game if the team was concerned about a broken jaw, a concussion, or both, Gonzalez said all of the above.
“I’m sure when you get hit in the head everything comes into play, teeth, jaw, concussion,” Gonzalez said. “Hopefully the least of the three, maybe some teeth instead of a broken jaw or concussion, but we’ll let the doctors put him through the paces there at the hospital and keep our fingers crossed.”
Gonzalez said Heyward never lost consciousness, but was spitting blood from the inside of his mouth. The count was 1-2 when Heyward was hit by a 90 mph fastball in the face near the right ear flap of his helmet.
“It was tough,” Mets left-hander Niese told reporters afterward. “I wanted to elevate a fastball right there, and then it didn’t slip out of my hands, but it kind of ran in on him. Obviously no intent, but I just felt bad. It’s every pitcher and every hitter’s worst nightmare. Just hope he’s OK.”
Heyward’s grandparents attended Wednesday’s game and joined Heyward in the Braves’ clubhouse shortly after he was hit.
The Braves expect to use Jordan Schafer and Joey Terdoslavich to fill in for Heyward, but B.J. Upton might also get increased playing time.
Reuters News Service contributed to this report