Braves' outstanding outfield struts its stuff
Heyward, Justin Upton go back-to-back, B.J. Upton adds double and steal
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Laughter and excited chatter were heard when the members of the Braves' new-look outfield entered the clubhouse after Monday's 7-6 win over the Marlins. Each had displayed his incredible power-speed potential during a fourth inning that was highlighted by Justin Upton's titanic home run.
"I've got to give that one between 450 to 470 [feet], closer to 470," right fielder Jason Heyward said in estimating the distance of the home run that Upton sent out of sight beyond the top of the grass berm beyond the left-field wall.
After Heyward opened the fourth with a line-drive homer to right field, Upton turned on a Scott Maine fastball and sent it over the pennants at the top of the berm. The ball hit the top of a tree and fell into a heavy patch of grass before reaching the players' parking lot.
"That's everything I've got right there," Upton said.
Now Upton can truly say that his first hit in a Braves uniform was a memorable one. The powerful outfielder had gone hitless in his first six at-bats of the spring.
"I was standing right by where the bats and helmets are," Heyward said. "I saw him hit it, and I was like ... It was high, far and loud. Good first hit for him. It took him all of three games to get a knock."
After teaming with Heyward to hit back-to-back home runs, Upton received a playful response from his teammates.
"Nobody jumped up to give me a high-five or anything," Upton said. "They gave me the silent treatment."
Though there might have been initial silence, the Braves and anybody else who witnessed this home run will be talking about it for a long time.
"That's the way I used to hit them," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "No one ever got to see them, because they were only in my dreams."
"That's the longest I've seen hit [to left field]," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I've seen guys hit it over the clock [in left-center field]. I've never seen one go over those advertising flags out there."
One out after seeing his brother drill his jaw-dropping shot, B.J. Upton came within a few feet of completing an impressive outfield trifecta. B.J.'s long drive off Maine short-hopped the wall in left-center, leaving him with a double. That gave the speedster a chance to show off his legs, and he took it, successfully stealing third base.
"That's going to be fun to watch," Gonzalez said of his outfielders. "They have that capability to go back-to-back or hit a single and steal a base or two."
The Braves began their outfield reconstruction process in November, when they signed B.J. Upton to a five-year, $75.25 million contract. They completed it on Jan. 24 by acquiring Justin Upton in a seven-player trade with the D-backs.
Both Uptons recorded a pair of hits in the win. It was the second straight two-hit game for B.J., who also showed off his arm when he caught a ball in left-center and fired a strong throw that denied Alfredo Silverio's bid to tag up and advance to third base.
Heyward's home run was his second in a span of three at-bats extending back to Sunday's sixth inning against the Pirates. The 23-year-old Gold Glover seems to have found comfort since working on his timing with some extra batting practice on Saturday.
"We know what we are all capable of individually, and we understand we have a good group of players together with this team," Heyward said. "We all just hope we do well. We're just going to do what we can each night."
This is the fifth Spring Training for Heyward. Before Justin Upton's arrival, he'd never seen a ball hit over the left-field berm.
"Not until [Justin] did it in BP and then right there in game speed," he said. "I'm kind of interested to see what it will be like when we get to real game speed and adrenaline. It's a dangerous lineup from any point in time. You've got speed, you've got some power and you've got some guys that are going to put the ball in play hard."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.