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Heyward’s concussion threatens to bring early end to his season

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Jason Heyward’s concussion might end his season prematurely, a somber conclusion to the worst year of his big-league career.

Heyward hasn’t played since Sept. 11, when he exited in the fourth inning against the San Francisco Giants after being kneed in the head on a slide into second base. The play caused a concussion that landed him on the injured list.

Although the Cubs have discussed shutting him down, Heyward wants to do everything he can to come back before the season ends Oct. 3, manager David Ross said Wednesday.

Heyward, 32, went through exertion tests Tuesday and came out OK; he was expected to do them again sometime Wednesday.

“In my mind, talking to him and starting to count down days of trying to get back, the word I’d probably use is ‘doubtful,’ but we’re definitely holding out hope,” Ross said before the series finale against the Minnesota Twins. “It’s just such a tricky injury.”

Ross has a good sense of what Heyward is going through because of his own concussion history during his 15-year career behind the plate, something he has been candid about.

“I try to help talk him through some moments and things I’ve been through and things I’ve seen and the knowledge I’ve gained from going through a lot of that in my career,” Ross said. “Some of the things to hold out hope that there are things that you’re feeling, make sure you’re documenting those in your mind. And those aren’t normal, those are real.

“It’s such a hard injury to deal with because you can’t see it. There’s no X-ray to take, there’s no test that’s really going to tell you you’re concussed, and so listen to your body, how you feel.”

Ross hasn’t provided many specifics of what Heyward has been experiencing, preferring to let the veteran outfielder share that information at his future discretion. Ross said he has related to some of Heyward’s symptoms and has talked to Heyward multiple times about those issues.

“It’s been really good conversations, and I hope I’m being helpful,” Ross said.

Ross is encouraged Heyward is feeling better daily. Putting a timeline on someone’s return from a concussion can be difficult, in part because of the various things a player must be able to handle in different environments, from hitting to running and shift movements on the bases and in the outfield.

Eleven days left in the season doesn’t leave much time to ensure all of those hurdles are cleared.

“It’s easy to think you’re starting to feel a little bit better and then getting exposed to different environments or things (in) the day-to-day,” Ross said.

The concussion adds to an already challenging season for Heyward. He spent time on the IL in May because of a left hamstring strain and in August with inflammation in his left index finger.

The injuries are another layer to Heyward’s struggles. His batting average (.214), on-base percentage (.280) and OPS (.627) are the worst in his 12 seasons in the majors, including the last six with the Cubs. And his 353 plate appearances are his fewest in a 162-game season.

Heyward is under contract for two more years at $22 million per year.

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