Braves’ Freeman hopes for more healthful season

Battling eye problems and an injured left index finger, Freddie

Freeman still managed to set career bests with 23 home runs and 94

RBIs last year.

The Atlanta first baseman jammed his left index finger while

sliding into second base in June against Miami, an injury that

prevented him from making a fist during the Braves’ stretch run. He

had vision problems starting in May, bothered by a burning

sensation.

”Last year was just a weird one,” Freeman said Saturday,

wearing a pair of glasses. ”I didn’t see well the rest of the

season and I had my finger injury, so it never felt right. I feel

great right now.”

Despite the health setbacks, Freeman managed to play in 147

games, just a season after finishing second in NL Rookie of the

Year voting. He considered laser eye surgery but for now plans to

stick with contacts.

Working out with teammates during the offseason, Freeman

followed Dan Uggla’s routine, lost 11 pounds and added muscle.

”Dan worked me hard,” Freeman said. ”I watched how hard he

works and started to do it myself. It wasn’t easy, but I started

losing the pounds and started to feel better. I hope it shows this

season.”

Uggla, who hit 19 homers and drove in 78 runs for the Braves

last season, said Freeman’s work ethic was as good as anyone’s.

”He worked hard and never dropped out,” Uggla said. ”I guess

he saw my work ethic and bought into it. He’s naturally strong, He

has a lot of talent and now that he’s back to being 100 percent, I

think it will pay off.”

Atlanta’s offense will be without Chipper Jones, who retired at

the end of last season, but has added outfielders B.J. and Justin

Upton to a batting order that already included Freeman, Uggla and

Jason Heyward.

”If I can just stay healthy, I can have a big year,” Freeman

said. ”Last year didn’t turn out the way I hoped it would be, and

losing in the wild-card game really was bad. But I got started. I

got the eyes checked, the finger feels better, and I am looking

forward to a big season.”

Notes: Jones, who retired after last season, is expected to make

an appearance in camp on Sunday as a guest instructor. … The

Braves started workouts late in the afternoon after half the team

underwent physicals. The schedule is the same on Sunday the other

half of the team goes through physicals. … Brian McCann said he

isn’t sure when he’ll be ready to start catching after surgery on

his right shoulder but speculated that he might be ready by

mid-April.