LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Spring training is about to get busier than usual for first baseman Freddie Freeman and two Braves teammates, and busier a lot sooner than usual.
Freeman, center fielder Ender Inciarte and pitcher Julio Teheran will leave the Braves by Sunday to join their respective teams for the World Baseball Classic that starts next week. Freeman is playing for Canada in tribute to his late mother — both parents were from Canada — while Inciarte (Venezuela) and Teheran (Colombia) will play for their home countries in the international tournament.
“Definitely I’ve taken my at-bats a lot more (seriously in early spring training games),” said Freeman, who was 7-for-10 with seven singles, four RBIs and no walks or strikeouts in four games before facing the Red Sox on Friday. “Usually I just (work on things) until the last couple of weeks, but I’ve been locking it in as fast as I could, taking it real seriously.”
Asked if he were treating the WBC as if he was preparing for opening day, Freeman said, “Yeah, pretty much. I feel pretty good. I’m a little inconsistent right now, some swings are good, some swings … I fouled a ball off my leg twice already, so that’s not a good sign. But I’m able to correct in mid at-bat. Like, I fouled off both my first pitches of an at-bat then was able to hit a line drive up the middle.”
He didn’t know whether the ramped-up early intensity in spring training might help him in the opening months of the season.
“I’ll let you know in May,” he said. “It can’t hurt, you know? I’m going to be playing seven innings today (Friday) and tomorrow. It’s a little early for it, but I’ll be game-ready here soon. Pretty much already game-ready — the adrenaline takes over and I’m pretty much fine. But it can’t hurt. We’ll see. I feel good, my body feels good.”
Canada will hold its three-day training camp in Dunedin, while Colombia will convene in Fort Myers and Inciarte will travel to Phoenix for Venezuela’s camp. Canada and Colombia are joined by team USA and the powerful Dominican Republic squad for first-round pool play in Miami. Braves pitcher Bartolo Colon hasn’t decided yet whether he’ll join the Dominican team after the first round, a possibility previously mentioned.
Freeman has his wife and infant son are with him at Braves spring training and said he’ll commute to Dunedin – it’s 60-90 minutes away, depending on traffic – rather than have them move everything there to another hotel for three days.
Canada is scheduled to face the Dominican Republic in a WBC opener on Thursday, then play the United States on Friday and Colombia and scheduled starter Teheran on Saturday (March 11).
“(Canada) plays the Blue Jays Tuesday (in an exhibition game), then the Yankees in Tampa Wednesday,” Freeman said. “Then I drive back to Orlando, pick up my wife and son, then drive to Miami that night and play the Dominican the next day. Gonna be a long day for me. Then Julio on Saturday.” He smiled and added, “Swing as hard as I possibly can.”
Venezuela will compete in a four-team pool in Mexico with Italy, Puerto Rico and host Mexico.
Two teams advance from each of four pools to the semifinals the following week, followed by the semifinals (March 20-21) and championship (March 22) at Dodger Stadium.