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Friday May 29th, 2015 6:23AM

Heyward says recovery going in 'right direction'

By The Associated Press
ATLANTA -- Jason Heyward said Saturday his recovery from a broken jaw is "going in the right direction."

Heyward was encouraged after taking batting practice for the second straight day. He is wearing a protective flap on his helmet and using a mouthpiece as protection for his surgically repaired jaw, which was fractured when he was hit by a pitch from the Mets' Jonathon Niese on Aug. 21.

"It's been fun," said Heyward, who also caught fly balls and threw in the outfield. "I'm just really anxious to play baseball as soon as possible."

The outfielder showed more power in his swings before Atlanta's game against San Diego on Saturday than he did on Friday. He pulled a pitch high off the foul pole in right field.

"I don't know how long we'll be doing this until we do something else," manager Fredi Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said Heyward could be sent to the Braves' Instructional League in Florida next week. The Braves hope to have Heyward back with the team and playing right field before the end of the regular season.

Heyward said he's not worried about the mental part of his return after being beaned.

"I haven't really had to think about it at all," he said. "I feel safe. That's the main thing."

Heyward said he began recovering his strength more quickly when he was cleared to eat solid foods. He said he anticipates his comfort level on the field also will return quickly.

"Every day I can take batting practice and be out there running around, I'm going to be doing something," he said.

Heyward is hitting .253 with 13 home runs and 37 RBIs in 95 games. Even before the injury, he had fallen off his 2012 production, when he hit .269 with 27 homers, 82 RBIs and 21 stolen bases.
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