SAN DIEGO – Freddie Freeman will take live batting practice Wednesday, just six weeks after fracturing his left wrist, and is aiming to begin a rehabilitation assignment Saturday with Triple-A Gwinnett at Charlotte and rejoin the Braves next week.
If all goes as planned, he said he would join the Braves in Washington for a four-games series against the Nationals that starts July 6 – seven weeks and one day after his injury and three weeks ahead of the original timetable for his return.
“Saturday game, then be off Sunday, play Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday,” Freeman said of his planned brief rehab schedule with Gwinnett, “then if I feel I can hit (Max) Scherzer’s heater, or whoever’s, then I’ll say I’m ready to roll and meet the team in D.C.”
And yes, he will rejoin them as a third baseman, having made the decision (in consultation with the Braves) to move across the diamond from his first-base position in order to keep his hot-hitting replacement Matt Adams in the lineup after Freeman returns.
Freeman has spent a lot of time in the past week taking ground balls at third base before the Braves take batting practice. He played third base in high school but hadn’t played it since spending five games there in rookie ball a decade ago, but Freeman said it hasn’t felt awkward and only one play has proven difficult.
“The slow backhand — so pretty much a bunt, running to field a bunt,” he said. “That’s the only one I’m having trouble with, and it’s not really trouble it’s getting my feet in the right position…. I’m ready to go. We’ll see how it goes. I’ll probably get 15 balls hit to me the first game.”
On Wednesday, he plans his first full pregame workout – infield drills and batting practice on the field. Freeman progressed in the past week from taking dry swings to hitting balls off a tee to hitting soft-tossed balls in the indoor batting cage. Now he’ll take the next big step: live batting practice.
“Just soft-toss today, but it was really good,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said Tuesday. “He was torqueing that bat pretty good, and looked like he was game-ready really, to me. If nothing else, he’s going to be in the best shape of his life from all the working out.”
Indeed, Freeman said his legs are stronger than before the injury from all the running and conditioning work he did before being cleared for baseball activities. He joked that it might help him hit the ball farther.
Braves bench coach and former third baseman Terry Pendleton said he’s been impressed by Freeman’s footwork at third base and thinks he’ll be able to handle the position. Freeman has worked daily with infield instructor and third-base Ron Washington.
Though some fans have expressed concern about him returning so soon from a fractured bone, Freeman said he’s had no pain with the bone and that a ligament in the wrist has steadily progressed after initial soreness from being in a cast for four weeks followed by so much initial activity. He’s spent countless hours with physical therapist Andrew Hauser, the Braves’ director of player health and performance.
“Each day it’s feeling better, the ligament’s feeling a lot better,” he said. “The bone obviously feels fine. Still not 100 percent in the ligament area but each day it’s getting better because Andrew is working on it.”
There is no swelling in the wrist and no visible atrophy in Freeman left forearm despite being casted for nearly a month. He said the forearm was only 1 ½ centimeters smaller in circumference after the cast came off. “And we’re getting that back,” he said. “Everything’s feeling pretty good.”
Well, everything except his throwing shoulder, which Freeman’s had to ice – something he never did before now – from making so many throws to first or second base during his fielding sessions with Washington.
“Shoulder hurts more than my wrist,” he said Tuesday, smiling as he sat in the visitor’s clubhouse at Petco Park, his T-shirt wet in the right shoulder area from the ice he’d had strapped to it following the workout.