It's a broken jaw, but it sure feels like a punch to the gut.
Jason Heyward will miss the next 4-to-6 weeks after suffering a fractured jaw on Wednesday afternoon. Heyward sustained the injury when a Jon Niese fastball came up and in unexpectedly on the left-handed hitting outfielder. What followed was a scary scene, with Heyward collapsing on home plate and staying down for several minutes before walking off under his own power. Heyward was spitting blood as he walked off the field.
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Fantasy owners are the ones seeing red upon Heyward's diagnosis. The 24-year-old was one of the hottest hitters in baseball in the month of August, batting .359/.423/.641 in 17 games this month before Wednesday's game. He had especially taken to batting leadoff -- as a leadoff hitter, Heyward was hitting .349/.417/.593 in 86 at-bats.
What remains in the Atlanta outfield is most likely a platoon that shouldn't come close to matching Heyward's production. B.J. Upton was recently demoted to a part-time role, primarily being used against lefties while sitting against right-handed pitching. The other side of that timeshare is Jordan Schafer, a left-handed hitting outfielder with an extreme platoon split.
The best option for Heyward owners at this point is, unfortunately, to look elsewhere for help.
Big Game Hunter
That's how Orioles manager Buck Showalter views the ninth inning in Baltimore these days.
"We've got 30-something games," Showalter said after Wednesday's 4-2 win. "We're going to put our best foot forward every night. Jimmy (Johnson)'s our best option, one of them. I'm glad we've got more than one good option. We've got a lot of good options and we'll continue to make use of them."
Options are great in real life, but in the fantasy realm they just serve to muddle the picture. Showalter's comments came after he used three different pitchers not named Jim Johnson -- the same Jim Johnson who has saved a combined 90 games over the past two seasons for the Orioles -- in the ninth inning to preserve a two-run lead. Darren O'Day and Brian Matusz put runners on before Tommy Hunter came in to extinguish the fire, collecting his fourth save of the year in the process.
Though Showalter listed Johnson as the team's best option, the timing of the move is notable. Johnson has allowed runs in four of his eight appearances this month and suffered three straight blown saves at one point. He made a scoreless appearance in Tuesday's game, but even then he gave up three hits in 2/3 of an inning.
Hunter, on the other hand, is in the midst of a breakout season as a reliever. Hunter has a 2.63 ERA and 0.92 WHIP after Wednesday's outing, boasting a 48/11 K/BB ratio. He's excelled as a setup man while touching the high 90s with his fastball.
Showalter admitted he tried to stay away from using Johnson in Wednesday's game, so it'll be interesting to see who gets the phone call when both pitchers are rested and ready to go. The smart money is still on Johnson, but those with an empty roster spot and a need for saves may want to buy a lottery ticket in Hunter.
The Cardinals' closer situation is a different kind of murky.
Closer Edward Mujica earned his 33rd save of the season on Wednesday but experienced some noticeable discomfort while doing so. It came out after the game that Mujica has been dealing with an issue behind his right shoulder under his trapezius.
"We're just going to continue to keep our eyes on it and we'll give him days when we can," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said after the game. "We've given him a few. Let the doctors -- the medical team -- get their hands on him again, just keep working on him and see what we have to deal with."
For his part, Mujica said he's "not concerned about it," but owners of the 29-year-old may be. Mujica gave up a long home run to Logan Schafer in Wednesday's outing, and since August 1 the reliever has given up nine hits and a walk while striking out just four batters in 11 1/3 innings. He's still not surrendering runs -- Wednesday's misstep was the first run he's allowed since July 4 -- but his effectiveness has slowly started to slip.
With days off on the docket and the Cardinals in the hunt for the postseason, opportunistic owners might grab Trevor Rosenthal for the stretch run.
National League Quick Hits: Johnny Cueto's (lat) throwing session Wednesday "went very well" according to the Reds head trainer. He will throw again Thursday ... Starling Marte missed his third straight game with a sore finger. The Pirates are still holding out hope it won't result in a trip to the DL ... Ross Ohlendorf was activated from the 15-day disabled list and started Wednesday night for the Nationals, giving up four runs in 4 1/3 innings in a no-decision ... Tony Cingrani (back) felt better on Wednesday after leaving Tuesday's start. He'll play catch on Thursday and throw a bullpen Friday before the Reds decide whether he'll make his next scheduled start ... an MRI of Pablo Sandoval's back came back negative. He should return to the Giants' lineup shortly ... Jonathan Broxton (elbow) is expected to return to the disabled list. This time, it could be for season-ending surgery ... the Nationals don't have plans to recall Danny Espinosa when the rosters expand on September 1 ... Jonathan Pettibone is experiencing renewed soreness in his right shoulder and will undergo an MRI. He hasn't pitched since July 28 ... Brewers optioned Donovan Hand and Sean Halton to Triple-A Nashville after Wednesday's game.
American League Quick Hits: Mike Trout (hamstring) missed his third straight game Wednesday. He's still being considered day-to-day ... Derek Jeter (calf) will begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Thursday. He could be activated within the next few days if all goes well ... David Ortiz (back) is "not really concerned" with the ailment after exiting Wednesday's game. He's likely just day-to-day for the time being ... Josh Reddick will undergo an MRI after re-spraining his right wrist. The disabled list may be in his future ... Matt Moore (elbow) threw 69 pitches in a bullpen session on Wednesday. He'll next throw a simulated game on Saturday and could go on a rehab assignment after that ... Dayan Viciedo went 3-for-4 with a grand slam on Wednesday. Don't sleep on the Tank's power ... Oswaldo Arcia (wrist) sat out Wednesday's game. He'll likely be able to avoid a disabled list trip ... Maicer Izturis could be headed to the disabled list if his sprained left ankle doesn't start improving soon ... Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Howie Kendrick needs "a little more time" before the club activates him from the DL. Kendrick could be back early next week ... Jayson Nix has been diagnosed with a fractured left hand. Tuesday night's hero could be done for the year ... Nick Tepesch (elbow) will throw live batting practice Saturday. He could be back with the Rangers by early September.
It's a broken jaw, but it sure feels like a punch to the gut.