Surging Freeman impresses Braves veterans

Watching Freddie Freeman’s progress in his first full season in the majors, Braves veterans know they’re seeing more than just another rookie.

After hitting three home runs Monday and Tuesday against Colorado, Freeman had seven homers and 17 RBIs in his past 22 games. He had a .316 average and .377 on-base percentage in his past 40 before Wednesday.

“He’s starting to get it,” Chipper Jones said, his mood brightening when someone asked about the rookie first baseman. “It’s fun to watch the young guys get confidence and go out and play with confidence.

“There are times when you can see the confidence level is down, and he went through it at various times in the first half, but right now, he’s got it.”

Freeman raised his average from .227 to .273 in 44 games since May 14. Among National League rookies, before Wednesday he ranked first in walks (31) and was tied for first in hits (80). He ranked second in doubles (18), multi-hit games (21), extra-base hits (30) and homers (12).

He is third on the Braves in homers, behind Brian McCann (14) and Dan Uggla (13), and third in RBIs with 39, behind McCann (47) and Jones (44).

“He looks great,” Uggla said. “I mean, this kid has so much talent and so much potential, with how strong he is and just being so far advanced for only being 21 years old. I think we’re going to see some special things out of him, and not just right now, but for a long time.”

Freeman, a left-handed hitter, had a higher slugging percentage against lefties (.467) than against right-handers (.453) before Wednesday. He had five homers in 90 at-bats against lefties, and seven in 203 at-bats against righties.

“He goes up there and thinks every at-bat he’s going to hit the ball hard somewhere,” Jones said. “And if he gets the right pitch, he’s going to take ’em deep. There’s no better feeling as an offensive player than to walk up to the plate knowing you’re going to do damage.”

Prado rehabs

Martin Prado caught a flight to Charlotte on Wednesday and began a minor-league rehab assignment, with a timetable to come off the disabled list for the Braves’ first game after the All-Star break, on July 15.

The standout left fielder has been on the DL for one month recovering from a staph infection in his right calf that necessitated surgery.

Prado is scheduled to play five games with Triple-A Gwinnett — two at Charlotte on Wednesday and Thursday, and a three-game series between the teams beginning Friday at Gwinnett.

He could play for Double-A Mississippi or another affiliate Monday, or the Braves might decide he’s had enough rehab and have him rest a day or two before working out with the major league team July 14 at Turner Field.

“Give him five or six games, and hopefully coming out of the All-Star break he’s good to go,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.

Prado was the designated hitter Wednesday, and Gonzalez said he probably would play left field Thursday and at least one game at third base.

Heyward gets day off

Jason Heyward was out of the lineup Wednesday, but only for a rest. He hasn’t had an recurrence of pain from right-shoulder inflammation that kept him on the disabled list for three weeks until June 15.

“Shoulder feels good,” he said. “Keep doing physical therapy and working out, and we’ll go from there.

He was 18-for-73 (.247) with six doubles, one homer and six RBIs in 19 games since returning, with eight walks and 16 strikeouts.

“Just having to make adjustments,” he said. “Because before I got hurt they were pounding me in, now they’re going back away.”