Freeman starts in first game for Braves
Freddie Freeman didn’t make the same splash as Jason Heyward in
his big league debut.
Still, the 20-year-old first baseman had no complaints about his
first game with the NL East-leading Braves. He hit a couple of
balls hard, made a nice scoop of a low throw and, best of all,
Atlanta beat the New York Mets 4-1 on Wednesday night for its fifth
”I felt like the day went really, really slow,” Freeman said.
”But when the game started, it seemed normal.”
Heyward and Freeman were Atlanta’s top two hitting prospects
coming through the minors, and Heyward locked down the right-field
job in spring training. He homered on opening day, was voted a
starter in the All-Star game and had his third four-hit game of the
season Wednesday against the Mets.
Freeman spent the year at Triple-A Gwinnett, where he batted
.319 with 18 homers, 35 doubles and 87 RBIs. He’s expected to take
over as the starting first baseman in 2011, and Braves fans are
clearly looking forward to watching him team with Heyward in the
middle of the batting order for years to come.
When Freeman came up for the first time, he received a big
ovation from a crowd that included his dad, Fred, who hastily flew
in from California to see his son’s debut.
”It’s kind of nice that the fans think you can be that guy,”
Freeman said. ”Hopefully, I can keep up those expectations.”
Freeman went 0 for 3 before he was lifted for a pinch-hitter in
the eighth. The first time up, he hit a hard grounder up the middle
– normally a hit – but the Mets had the shift on. Shortstop Ruben
Tejada fielded the ball and threw to first.
The youngster stroked it hard again in the third, but third
baseman David Wright grabbed the ball just above the dirt and threw
to first to double off Brian McCann.
”I was like, ‘That one’s got to go through,’ but it was right
at David,” Freeman said. ”That’s baseball. All you can ask for is
to hit the ball on the barrel. You’ll get some hits.”
Freeman, who struck out swinging in his final at-bat, was among
the players called up on the first day of expanded rosters. Braves
manager Bobby Cox thought it was best to get that first start out
of the way, though Derrek Lee will get most of the playing time at
first base down the stretch.
As for Freeman, ”he’ll play once in a while when Derrek needs a
day off, pinch-hit and drive in the winning run,” Cox said with a
Freeman was pleased to have his father in the stands – ”he
pretty much taught me the game of baseball” – and remembered his
late mother, who died of cancer when Freddie was 10.
”I was talking to her all game,” he said. ”I was telling her
I wished she could be here. But I know she was watching. She
couldn’t be here physically, but she was here spiritually.”