Freddie Freeman’s Iron Man streak ended in 2015 courtesy of a nagging wrist injury that twice landed him on the disabled list. The Braves’ two-time All-Star first baseman missed 44 games total and struggled during the second half of the season while playing through pain, posting uncharacteristic offensive numbers after the break.
Freeman’s injury issues appear to be in the rearview mirror, though.
"It’s been a long offseason, but my wrist is 100 percent healthy for the first time in six months," Freeman said. "I think everybody saw the report with (Fox Sports MLB insider) Ken Rosenthal when I told him that I was 100 percent healthy, but that was just everyday activities. I didn’t become 100 percent baseball-wise until Dec. 31. I took 10 dry swings and felt pain-free for the first time."
Freeman received his last wrist injection on Dec. 20 and while the injury has cost him his typical offseason routine, he plans to be back on track by spring training. He took 30 more dry swings on Tuesday without any pain. The plan moving forward is to hit off a tee for the first time on Thursday and, barring any setbacks, to continue strengthening the wrist and forearm leading up to the 2016 opener.
Freeman remains the most potent hitter in Atlanta’s lineup after posting a .276/.370/.471 slash line with 18 home runs and 3.4 wins above replacement.
Still, despite his third straight season posting a three-plus WAR, the injury provided plenty of frustration.
"It was probably the hardest time of my big-league career so far," Freeman said. "When you know going in day in and day out that you’re not 100 percent and you can’t perform up not only my expectations but everybody else’s expectations of you, it was definitely mentally frustrating for me. It was a time that I hope I never have to experience again.
" … I kinda realized what was the difference between being hurt and being injured, and last year I was injured. And usually I can play through being hurt, and I have done that many times in my career, but last year I just couldn’t play through it."
The Braves front office has, on multiple occasions, expressed its belief that it has upgraded baseball’s lowest-scoring offense across the board this offseason, which would help provide more protection for Freeman, but the first step is getting the franchise’s middle-of-the-order bat back to full health.