LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Words that Braves Country have come to fear: Braves slugger Freddie Freeman left the game due to soreness in his right hand or wrist.
Freeman walked to load the bases in the first inning Friday against the Phillies and struck out with two runners on to end the second inning, then shook his wrist as he walked toward the dugout. He didn’t come back on the field and was replaced at first base to start the third inning.
After coming out of the game, Freeman sent word from the training room through a Braves media-relations official that he didn’t have anything to say at that time, but would talk to reporters Saturday. The team stressed that he was removed for precautionary reasons.
Freeman was slowed for much of the 2015 season and missed 44 games for two stints on the disabled list for recurring pain with the wrist after injuring it June 13. But this spring he’d reported no soreness and had two home runs, three hits and six walks in 13 plate appearances before the second-inning strikeout.
“I feel absolutely no pain in my wrist,” he said after hitting a two-run homer Wednesday against the Astros. “Everything feels great, now it’s just getting more reps.”
The Braves said just before full-squad workouts began that Freeman would be brought along slowly, since he hadn’t hit against overhanded pitching before reporting to spring training. But he was taking live batting practice a few days into camp and had no setbacks while playing in five of the first 10 games before Friday.
He had Thursday off and was scheduled to play consecutive games Friday and Saturday, then three consecutive games next week as a last test before removing any restraints on his workload.
After Freeman hurt his wrist last summer, multiple injections and other cutting-edge therapy techniques never stopped the discomfort for any extended period, and each time he returned to the lineup he had a setback soon thereafter.
He couldn’t swing a bat in the offseason until Dec. 31, after another cortisone injection in mid-December finally took effect. Until spring training began he was limited to hitting balls off a tee or balls flipped to him underhanded, hence the Braves’ plan to ease him into action in hopes of not aggravating the wrist before the regular season.
Though he seemed to progress sooner than anyone expected, the Braves had said all along they expected Freeman to have good and bad days during camp, including some days when he felt sore and needed a day off.