The Braves slugger who played all 162 games last season is having a hard time staying healthy these days.
Only 11 days after returning from a nearly six-week stint on the disabled list for a wrist injury, Freddie Freeman is back on the DL for a strained oblique.
He strained the muscle in his right side on a third-inning pitch in Monday’s 12-inning win against the San Francisco Giants. Freeman came out a half-inning later.
The Braves decided soon after he reported to Turner Field early Tuesday afternoon that Freeman would need to go on the DL, since they were already playing a man short while Andrelton Simmons recovers from a bone bruise in his right thumb. Corner outfielder/first baseman Joey Terdoslavich was recalled from Triple-A to take Freeman’s roster spot.
The Braves hope Freeman can return in the minimum 15 days, like he did after a 15-day DL stint for an oblique strain in April 2013.
“It’s not a high oblique (injury),” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “From my understanding, if it’s higher or closer to the rib, it could be a prolonged thing. His is a little bit lower. He had it kind of similar in 2013, early in the season. So we’re hoping that’s kind of the same type grade (of injury). He’s going to Orlando and he’ll do his rehab there, and hopefully we get him back soon.”
Freeman is returning to the team’s spring-training site in Orlando to workout out and rehab with trainers there, as he did for the last week of his DL stint for the wrist injury. He returned to the Braves’ lineup nearly a week earlier than expected from that injury, playing in only one rehab game before the Braves decided to bring him back to the major league squad after veteran hitters Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson were traded to the Mets.
Struggling initially to get his swing back following the wrist injury, Freeman went 3-for-23 in his first six games, before consecutive two-hit games at Philadelphia. He was 7-for-38 (.184) a double, two homers and four RBIs in 10 games since returning from the DL.
In his last 17 games before the DL stint for the wrist injury, Freeman hit .338 (22-for-65) with six homers, 16 RBIs and a .677 slugging percentage. Then he missed 30 games, and in that span the Braves mustered just a .234 team average with 17 homers and 83 runs (2.76 per game) in 30 games.
Now the offense will have to make do once again without its best hitter for at least 15 days. Freeman has hit .284 with 14 homers and a .500 slugging percentage this season, while no other active Brave has more than eight homers or a slugging percentage as high as .450 in as many as 40 at-bats.
Freeman injured his side on a swing when he fouled off a pitch. He winced and was slow to get back in the batter’s box. He finished the at-bat and played his first-base position in the fourth inning, but went straight up the tunnel from the dugout to the clubhouse and training room after the inning was over.
“I thought he had done something with his wrist (again),” Gonzalez said. “I didn’t think it was anything with his side. When the inning was over, he didn’t even come by and say anything to me, he just went inside to the training room, and next thing you know Jeff’s tapping me on the shoulder and says, ‘Hey, Freeman’s got an oblique, he’s going to be out of the game.’ So that was that.”
For those wondering if the Braves, who were 10 games under .500 (48-58) before Tuesday, considered perhaps shutting down Freeman for the rest of the season: No, they have not. And they have no plans to consider that.
“He’s a competitor. A big-time competitor,” Gonzalez said. “It’s an injury that, if treated right, if it’s not a serious one, you get him back in two or three weeks. And I’m sure he wants to finish the season healthy. We want him to finish the season healthy. He’s a guy who’s going to be with us for a lot of years. And we still want to win as many games as we can, and he’s a big, important piece in that puzzle.”
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