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Heyward enjoyed his best season in 2012, when he hit .269 and set career highs with 27 homers, 82 RBIs and 21 stolen bases.

Heyward’s injuries did not prevent him from showcasing his versatility. A 2012 Gold Glove winner in right field, Heyward started 20 games in center last year.

He spent most of the season hitting second in the order before he was moved to the leadoff spot by manager Fredi Gonzalez on July 27. Over his next 22 games, Heyward hit .349 with five homers, 15 RBI and 23 runs.

Heyward is projected as Atlanta’s leadoff hitter.

“He provides a great presence,” Wren said. “The one thing we saw, especially after Fredi moved him to the leadoff spot, it allowed him to utilize his speed, it allowed him to utilize his ability to get on base even to a greater degree.

“I think other teams felt pressure from the very first pitch of the game, because all of a sudden now you’ve got a 6-foot-6, 230-pound leadoff hitter that can do some damage from the get-go. That came back to us time and time again, that there’s no let up. It starts right away.”

Heyward is eligible for free agency after the 2015 season. He had asked for a raise from $3.65 million to $5.5 million in arbitration and had been offered $5.2 million.