LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Freddie Freeman's left index finger was nearly broken in June when he got hit sliding into second base by a throw from Miami shortstop Jose Reyes, and his eyes were so troublesome that Freeman sometimes changed contacts three times in one inning and still had blurry vision.
The 23-year-old Braves first baseman nonethless mustered 23 homers, a team-high 94 RBIs and a .796 OPS in his second major league season. Freeman didn’t miss much playing time, but said the sore finger affected his swing and that he couldn’t make a fist without pain until the first week of January.
“Now I feel strong, I feel great, I feel healthy,” he said. “That’s all I can ask for.”
Despite health issues, Freeman improved in several categories over his strong 2011 rookie season, setting career-bests in doubles (33), home runs, RBIs and OPS, while his batting average dropped from .282 to .259 and his on-base percentage from .346 to .340.
The 6-foot-5 Californian reported to camp at 237 pounds, 11 below his reporting weight a year ago. He lost the weight while working out with teammate Dan Uggla during the offseason and following the same lean-meat and fruit-and-vegetable-heavy diet that Uggla used for the first time. Uggla shed about 10 pounds and four percent body fat.
“It’s something I wanted to do, feel leaner,” Freeman said. “It was a lot of fun just changing things up. We worked out together, did everything together this offseason. It was a lot of work, and hopefully it pays off.”
Freeman said he also got his frustrating eye situation under control with new contacts and lubricant. He said he’ll wear a pair of custom-made clear sunglasses on the field – but not while hitting -- to keep out irritants. The glasses should arrive this week.
“The way I hit, the nosepiece gets in the way and I can’t see,” he said. “So I’ll take them off when I hit.”