FREEMAN RETURNS: G-Braves’ sensation looks forward to improving skill set

"There ya go!" exclaimed Gwinnett Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman when he heard the news. "There I am. I am happy." Freeman had just been told by a reporter on Sunday that he would start at first base in Monday’s game after playing designated hitter for the past two games.

"DH is hard, you know, because you have to sit through a couple innings and go up and hit," said Freeman.

G-Braves manager Dave Brundage mentioned after the team’s 7-3 loss to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre that Freeman would likely be back at first base for Monday’s game. Brundage also noted that Freeman’s time at DH was more precautionary than anything else, as the hot young prospect missed six games prior to Friday.

"The trainer and I just kinda thought the first couple games maybe DH and we’ll see how he responds after the game today, but more than likely, we’ll probably see him tomorrow back at first base," said Brundage. "It was more precautionary than anything."

The Braves’ second-round selection (78th overall) in the 2007 draft has noticed improvement in the knee since he was injured on May 28.

"It’s feeling better," described Freeman. "I’m just taking it day-by-day and getting my treatment in. It’s good enough to get in the lineup right now so we’re just going to keep going and get treatment and see where it goes from there."

This is the second year in a row that Freeman has been injured, as he missed several games in 2009 due to a hand problem. The youngster is a bit miffed at missing time again.

"A little bit," said Freeman when asked if he was frustrated with being injured again. "I think the frustration went away when I knew it was a knee injury and I knew it wasn’t real serious. I don’t think it was frustration, I was just hoping nothing was seriously wrong. When I found out nothing was torn, I knew I’d be coming back pretty soon."


With Jason Heyward starring in "The Show" down I-85 at Turner Field, Gwinnett’s Freeman is now ranked the No. 1 prospect in the Atlanta Braves’ farm system. But that accolade has not distracted the Thousand Oaks, Calif., native.

"I guess that people are starting to recognize the hard work I put in is nice, but (the ranking) doesn’t really mean a lot to me," he said. "It’s (very) humbling and it’s a great honor."

In just his third year in the organization, Freeman has leapt from the rookie Gulf Coast League to Rome, Myrtle Beach, Mississippi and now Class AAA Gwinnett- the final stop before the big leagues.

"I think he just needs to gain experience," declared Brundage of what Freeman needs to improve upon. "He’s a young man with a lot of talent and a lot of tools, showing more patience at the plate, getting his pitch and understanding what his pitch is and understanding the situations that come along with it. But that comes with experience along the way. He’s got good command of his strike zone at times (but) he reverts back to making early outs early in the count and that’s something that has been addressed already."

But, as evidence by his stellar minor league numbers, Freeman also has a lot going for him at his young age. The 6-foot-5, 225-pounder hit .316 with 18 homers and 95 RBis in Class A Rome in 2007 in just 130 games. After a year between Class A+ Myrtle Beach and Class AA Mississippi, Freeman was promoted to Gwinnett for the 2010 season, where he is hitting .262 with five homers and 26 RBIs.

"He’s a heckuva hitter," praised Brundage. "He doesn’t have a lot of holes. He utilizes the entire field, he spreads the ball around according to where he’s pitched and he tries to figure out where people are going to pitch him and understand what he can and can’t do with certain pitches along the way."

Despite widespread praise from Brundage and others, Freeman realizes what he can improve upon.

"I’m trying to do a lot of work at first, cut down the errors, work on my picks (digging bad throws out of the dirt) and trying to have more range" said Freeman. "Hitting-wise, just trying to stay consistent. You know you’re not going to feel good all the time (at the plate), but trying to minimize slumps you get, so just trying to know my swing and put good swings on it every day."

Needless to say, Freeman has the tools to make it to "The Show", and, with the aging Troy Glaus currently manning first base for the parent club, the 20-year-old burgeoning star looks to be next in line at the position.

"For a young man that’s only 20-years-old and utilizes the entire field, he’s shown me an awful lot since he’s been here."

Freeman enjoys the luxury of not having the added pressure of a deadline to reach the big leagues.

"(The Braves) haven’t given me any timetable," he explained. "They just want me to go out here play baseball and I don’t think about that stuff- trying to get to the big leagues, when its going to happen. I’m here, I’m in Triple-A and I gotta help this team win."

Needless to say, the Atlanta Braves future at first base will be playing in Turner Field soon enough, with or without a timetable.

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