Watching the Braves take on Marlins 21-year-old phenom Jose Fernandez Friday night was entertaining in and of itself, but then the interaction between the standout young pitcher and Freddie Freeman? Priceless.
Freeman and Fernandez first got to know each other as National League teammates at the July 16th All-Star game, but their introduction on the field came with Freeman sending a first-pitch change-up to center field for a two-run homer, the eventually winning runs of a 2-1 Braves win.
The second time up, Freeman hit a first-pitch 95 mph fastball over Justin Ruggiano’s head in center field. Fernandez smiled out at Freeman standing at second base.
“I told Freeman, ‘How can I get you out?’” Fernandez told reporters after Friday’s game. “And he starts laughing.”
Fernandez said when Freeman was on deck and he was warming in the sixth, he was already telling Freeman to “go back to the dugout” before he led off the inning. Shortly thereafter, in his third at-bat, Freeman swung at the first pitch again – which he does at a 47.7 percent rate, second highest in the majors – and fouled off a fastball. Fernandez couldn’t help but smile at Freeman. Freeman smiled back.
He got a big kick out of the whole exchange.
“That’s why he’s so good,” said Freeman, who struck out in that final at-bat. “He doesn’t get too wrapped up in everything. He has a lot of fun out there and I think that’s going to go a long way for him. It’s kind of like (Clayton) Kershaw, with that kind of stuff, and that personality, it’s going to go a long way in this game.”
The Marlins are planning to shut down Fernandez at 170 innings and he’s 12 away, which means the Braves will likely see him for at least a few innings two starts from now on Sept. 11 in Miami.
You get the feeling Fernandez vs. Freeman will be something to watch in a couple of weeks, not to mention a couple of years from now. And Freeman looks forward to both the challenge – “he doesn’t give in, he’s going after you,” Freeman said – and the interaction.
“I actually love it,” Freeman said. “I like people having fun out there. He’s almost like a Kris Medlen personality.”
The Braves haven’t been able to acquire the ace they might have wanted for the top of their rotation, but they secured the depth they needed Monday with the signing of free agent right-hander Gavin Floyd.
One week after the Braves were eliminated by the Dodgers in a four-game division series, Braves general manager Frank Wren met with the team’s beat writers and discussed the 2013 season and the team’s needs going into the offseason.