Freeman could start rehab work after weekend

Freddie Freeman could start rehab work with the Braves’ Gulf Coast League team as early as Sunday or Monday, president of baseball operations John Hart said Friday.

“Freddie’s going through the rehab, he’s feeling better,” Hart said. “We’re going to attempt to get him out and let him start doing a few more things where he can go live, and maybe get him in some games, and then just see where it goes from here. But there was a level of optimism here in the last couple of days, where it looks like it’s starting to work itself out.”

Freeman was eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list for Friday’s game against the Cubs. But Hart said Wednesday that Freeman’s wrist injury was worse than the team thought, and he may not return to the lineup until the first week of August.

Braves bats have all but vanished without Freeman, averaging only 2.7 runs per game. In Freeman’s last 18 games before landing on the DL, the Braves scored 5.3 runs per game.

One guy leaves the lineup and poof — there goes half the offense.

“It’s tough. And to be honest, not every team is built around one guy,” Kelly Johnson said before the game Friday. “There’s a few. I played in Tampa and we had Evan Longoria — that’s the guy. … Obviously Cameron (Maybin) has done an unbelievable job stepping up for us. Guys are trying to figure it out, but (Freeman’s) too good. It’s tough to say whether you’d win more games if he was there. … But the guy’s too good. We miss him too much. We wish we had him and we hope we get him back.”

Manager Fredi Gonzalez said he’s eager to see how Freeman’s wrist fares over the weekend.

“I think this weekend is going to be big for him in terms of where we’re at come Monday,” he said. “Can he go down to Orlando and start working himself into some kind of baseball shape. … Talking to him, he felt that (the wrist) is kind of turning the corner a little bit on him.”

Freeman suffered a bone bruise in his right wrist June 13 after an awkward swing in the ninth inning at Citi Field. He immediately felt pain in his wrist and said he could barely lift a bat the next day. But he tried to play through the injury before ultimately leaving the game in the seventh inning against the Red Sox on June 17.

An MRI scan June 22 revealed no broken bones, but the Braves put Freeman on the 15-day disabled list the following day, retroactive to June 18.