CHICAGO – Freddie Freeman divulges that the left wrist he fractured in May is weak and that he feels like he’s swinging a “wet newspaper,” and the response from much of Braves Country is that he should be shut down for the rest of the season or at least a few days.
To which Freeman has a simple reply: “That won’t happen. Dr. (Gary) Lourie asked me today to take a day off; I said Oct. 2 I’ll take a day off. If there was pain, that’d be a different story. There is no pain. I’m just not capable of what I want to do. Weak, not being able to produce like I want to, but I still think it’s good enough (to help the team).
“If I’m 0-for-5, 0-for-6 every game and can’t catch up to 88 (mph pitches), then (maybe he’d rest). But right now I’m able to do decently. But I’m not going to shut it down. There’s no chance of that. The only way I’m going to shut it down is if I really break something again. That’s not me, I think everybody knows that. I think the fans should know that, too. I’m going to give it my all until I can’t go anymore.”
He said this Sunday morning before the Braves’ series finale against the Cubs at Wrigley Field, where on Saturday Freeman went 2-for-5 with a double, a home run, three RBIs, a walk and two strikeouts in a 14-12 slugfest loss.
After that game he made the comment about the bat feeling like a wet newspaper, saying his wrist was weak and the lack of strength had sapped his bat speed, which he doesn’t expect to return until he has an offseason to strengthen it.
But the fact remains, even with his wrist at 60-65 percent – that’s what he estimated Sunday, down from 80-85 a couple weeks ago – he still is the Braves’ most-feared hitter and best run producer. He’ll have the wrist examined Monday when the Braves are back in Atlanta after a seven-game trip, but Freeman is confident the exam will show the wrist is structurally sound.
In his past nine games before Sunday, Freeman was just 5-for-32 (.156), but all the hits were for extra bases (three doubles, two homers) and he had seven RBIs in that span along with six walks and seven strikeouts.
“There’s no pain. I just have no strength,” he said. “Doctor Lourie is going to look at it tomorrow. He’s been trying to get me to take a day off today, I said, no, I’ll take a day off Oct. 2. But he wanted me to take a day off today. I just said no. He’s going to look at me tomorrow to make sure everything is structurally sound, but I feel no pain. I get some aches here and there, but I just have to remind myself I broke my wrist three months ago, so I’m going to feel something here and there. But I feel fine, I just pick up the bat and it feels a little heavier than it used to. I just don’t have the strength.
“I have no concerns about my wrist, it’s just I’m not going to be as good as I used to be until I get a full offseason of strengthening it. But I have no pain, nothing’s wrong with the bone.”
Freeman’s left wrist was fractured by a 94-mph fastball from Mets left-hander Aaron Loup on May 17. He was originally expected to miss about 10 weeks, but Freeman was back in seven weeks.
Before the injury, he hit a blistering .341 with a .461 OBP, .578 slugging percentage (1.209 OPS) and 26 extra-base hits including a league-leading 14 homers in 37 games, with 27 walks and 31 strikeouts.
Since returning from the DL just before the All-Star break, Freeman hit .294 with a .375 OBP, .520 slugging percentage (.895 OPS) and 26 extra-base hits (10 homers) in 53 games before Sunday, with 24 walks and 43 strikeouts.
“It’s good enough to swing, but I feel like I’m hitting a ball to right field and all of a sudden it’s going to left field,” he said. “It doesn’t hurt, that’s all I care about.”
Lourie, the Braves’ chief physician and a noted hand specialist, will examine him again to make sure the wrist is structurally sound, but Freeman said there’s no reason to believe it’s not. Sunday was his 1,000th career major league game Sunday, and he plans to play all of the Braves’ remaining 28 games this season regardless of them long since being out of postseason contention.
“My bone feels fine, wrist feels fine,” he said. “It’s just when I pick up a bat, instead of it feeling like 32 ounces it feels like 40 ounces.”
He said he remains hopeful that the forearm strengthening drills he’s doing five times a week will help him get a “jolt” of strengthn for perhaps the last two or three weeks of the season.
When someone mentioned to him that he was still hitting plenty of balls hard despite feeling weak, Freeman smiled.
“Yeah, but not like I want it to be,” he said. “I don’t take BP anymore because I can’t take that many swings, it just wears out too quick. It’s just kind of managing it now. But there’s no pain. I want to make that clear: I have no pain in my wrist. It feels fine. It’s just…like I’m swinging a wet newspaper through there.”
He said it’s particularly noticeable when he is late catching up to even some mediocre fastballs, or when he waits on a slider and can’t just turn it into a line-drive opposite-field hit the way he does when he’s completely healthy. He noted that his two extra-base hits Saturday came on first-pitch fastballs, where he’s “just going for it.”
Freeman also has conceded that he’s still getting past the psychological part of facing hard-throwing lefties who throw him high-and-inside pitches “which they have to do to get me out.”
“That’s just a mental thing,” he said. “Right when I first came back I almost got hit, like, three more times. So that’s just me staying in there. It’s just going to have to happen with more at-bats. And obviously when I have a whole offseason to clear my mind.”