No time for setbacks: Jason Heyward cautious, but expects to play in September


Jason Heyward is officially eligible to return from the 10-day disabled list after right hamstring tightness sidelined him on August 31, but he is choosing to resist the temptation to hasten his return to the Cubs.

Heyward told reporters Monday that he ran outside of the first time, and that he didn't experience anything that would cause him concern about his recovery.

"Confidence is there," Heyward said. "I just have to do the smart thing now and build my way back up."

For Heyward, this means getting to a point where both he and the team feel comfortable with him returning to the lineup, he said. If he were to rush back, aggravating the injury would potentially mean he is done for the season and possibly October as well.

But given the date on the calendar and number of games left, Heyward said that there is no wiggle room in his rehab.

"It’s too late for me to have any setbacks," Heyward said, "so I just have to be smart and make sure I’m all the way there."

In Chicago while the team was finishing its lengthy road trip through Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and then Washington, Heyward said he worked on hitting off of a tee and having the ball flipped to him, as well as taking traditional batting practice.

It wasn't until Monday that he went outside and really tested his leg. With the closeness of the NL Central race, a more aggressive timeline might have been understandable, but the Cubs expect to need Heyward for more than just September. The right fielder avoided speaking to the postseason, but he said he expects to be back well before then, even with a more conservative approach to his injury.

"I’m going to do everything necessary to be smart about it, but I plan on playing baseball," Heyward said.

Along with his ever-present glove, Heyward has been a catalyst for the offense this season in ways not seen in 2016 or 2017. Before his injury, Heyward was hitting .275 on the season with 21 doubles. Getting him back in the remaining weeks of the regular season would likely be a boost, both in September and in the postseason.

In the meantime, Heyward is watching a very meaningful stretch of games and looking forward to his return.

"That’s a no-brainer. I want to play baseball," Heyward said. "I want to play baseball at this time of year and help my team get the job done."

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