ATLANTA -- As Braves All-Star catcher Brian McCann was taking batting practice before Wednesday night's game at Turner Field, he reminisced about Monday's Opening Day victory and said, "That was the most fun that I've ever had playing in a game. Everything lined up just right."
McCann's second-inning solo shot chased Carlos Zambrano and gave the Braves some cushion as they cruised to a 16-5 season-opening win over the Cubs. But while the 26-year-old enjoyed collecting his third Opening Day homer in a span of just five years, he was certainly well aware of the fact that the highlight of the day came courtesy of the titanic, three-run shot that Jason Heyward produced in the six-run first inning with the first swing of his Major League career.
"It was a nice little line drive that he crushed, and that's the kind of hitter that he is," Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton said of Heyward's drive that went an estimated 414 feet and landed on the mounds at the back of the Braves' bullpen. "He's a line-drive hitter. He just hit a line drive a long way."
With his memorable homer, the 20-year-old Heyward became the youngest player to homer in his first career at-bat since Reds 19-year-old right fielder Ted Tappe in 1950. The youngest player to do this was New York Giants outfielder Whitey Lockman, whose historic homer occurred in 1945, just 20 days shy of his 19th birthday.
While the sports world was buzzing about his homer on Tuesday, Heyward enjoyed a low-key day off that enabled him to spend time with his grandparents before they traveled back to New York on Wednesday.
Heyward's ability to handle his instant stardom and continue to take his same approach to the plate during his final four at-bats on Monday wasn't overlooked by Pendleton.
"He stayed within himself," Pendleton said. "He doesn't try to get bigger or hit the ball further. He just goes up there and does what he does. That's what is going to separate him from a lot of young hitters coming to this league."
Heyward scorched a low liner through the middle of the infield for an eighth-inning single that completed his two-hit debut. But the at-bat that impressed Chipper Jones occurred one inning earlier, when with Yunel Escobar on second base and nobody out, the young phenom was successful in his attempt to direct the ball to the right side of the diamond.
"That's how you earn respect among your teammates," Jones said. "We're all going to see those homers, but what gets overlooked is the fact that the kid knows how to play the game and he works at it."
Schafer frustrated by slow-healing hand
ATLANTA -- When Jason Heyward homered in his first career at-bat on Monday afternoon, Jordan Schafer thought about how he had become just the 99th player in Major League history to do so just one year earlier amid the same excitement created by Opening Day.
But even the good memories can create further frustration for Schafer, who is visibly bothered by the fact that his surgically repaired left hand still isn't strong enough for him to resume playing. The 23-year-old center fielder underwent some treatment in Atlanta the past few days and will return to the club's Spring Training complex in Florida on Thursday with the hope that he could be cleared to play again in a few weeks.
"It feels a lot better," said Schafer, who hopes to begin facing some live pitching by the time next week arrives.
Schafer homered in two of his first three Major League games last year and then injured his wrist during the fourth game the Braves played last year. He struggled while continuing to play with discomfort through the end of May, when he was sent to the Minors. He then played just nine more games before undergoing surgery on Sept. 5.
Because his hand and wrist were in a brace or cast during a significant portion of the summer and for nearly two months after he underwent the surgical procedure, Schafer reported to Spring Training and quickly realized that he still hadn't regained the strength necessary to play.
Diaz has no complaints with platoon
ATLANTA -- When the Braves decided that Jason Heyward would begin this season as their starting right fielder, Matt Diaz knew that he was likely destined to spend this season platooning in left field with Melky Cabrera.
This is essentially the same role that Diaz has played since joining the Braves in 2006. But after hitting .313 and leading the club with a .488 slugging percentage last year, the 32-year-old outfielder had at least provided reason to wonder if he would get more playing time this season.
"I get asked a lot of questions about whether I'm mad about platooning, and all I can say is that I'll never be mad at Bobby Cox. He took me off the scrap heap and turned me into whatever I am now."
After Cubs manager Lou Piniella gave up on him during their days with the Rays, Diaz struggled to find a lasting spot in the Majors with the Royals. But since joining the Braves, Diaz has compiled a .316 batting average and been exposed to the Minor League lifestyle only when he was rehabbing a major knee injury in 2008.
With the Cubs slated to start right-handed pitcher Randy Wells during Thursday night's series finale, Cabrera will likely be the starting left fielder in each of the Braves' first three games. But Diaz should get his first start of the season on Friday afternoon, when the Giants send Jonathan Sanchez to the mound for their home opener.
During his career, Diaz has hit .347 with a .921 OPS against left-handed pitchers and .276 with a .722 OPS against right-handed pitchers.
"[Cox] told us he doesn't know what the rotation [of outfielders] will be, but there would be some sort of at-bats for everybody," Diaz said. "If you're the 25th guy on Bobby's team, he uses you."
Smoltz enjoying broadcasting whirlwind
ATLANTA -- John Smoltz arrived at Turner Field on Wednesday afternoon with his computer bag on his shoulder and a smile that provided every indication that he will be content if the only reason he visits a Major League stadium this year is to fill his broadcasting duties.
Smoltz called Tuesday night's Yankees-Red Sox game at Fenway Park and then caught a 6 a.m. ET flight back to Atlanta that gave him just a short time to rest before traveling to Turner Field to serve as an analyst for Wednesday night's game between the Braves and Cubs.
"It's fun," Smoltz said. "It's not full time, and it never will be. But it's a nice transition."
While Smoltz still isn't ready to officially announce that his playing days are complete, he appears to be excited about spending the rest of this summer fulfilling his broadcast duties for MLB Network and Turner Sports.
Smoltz was in the MLB Network studios on Opening Day and then worked with Bob Costas on Tuesday night, when the Network broadcast its first game of the season.
Wednesday night marked the first of the 25 Braves games that Smoltz will call for Peachtree Television this year. He was joined in the booth by his good friend Joe Simpson and Ernie Johnson, the popular NBA studio host who is excited to return to baseball this summer and handle the same duties that his father fulfilled for the Braves for so many years.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.