Freddie Freeman plays 3B in first rehab game since injury

BY AP • July 2, 2017

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Freddie Freeman left his first baseman's mitt in the dugout during his first minor league rehab appearance with Triple-A Gwinnett.

The Atlanta Braves star slugger played third base Saturday for the first time since 2007, converting his only fielding chance in a game against the Charlotte Knights that was suspended after four innings.

Freeman has spent the past two weeks taking grounders at the hot corner while he works to come back from a broken left wrist. He was hit by a pitch from Toronto's Aaron Loup on May 17.

Freeman proposed the move across the diamond to keep Matt Adams' bat in Atlanta's lineup. Before Saturday, Freeman last played third base in rookie ball. He made five appearances at the position then, and hasn't played there regularly since high school.

Freeman said he was anxious about his return to third and hoped he could get a ground ball in the first inning. Although that didn't happen, the moment came in the second on a four-hopper off Everth Cabrera's bat. Freeman made a clean grab and throw to first for the final out.

Fans cheered as Freeman walked toward the dugout, smiling as he waved his glove above his head in celebration and then tipped his cap.

''I was having some fun,'' Freeman said. ''They were happy that I actually fielded the ball, and so was I.''

Freeman was 0 for 1 with a walk and a strikeout.

''I don't think I swung at a strike my first at-bat,'' Freeman said. ''I was just swinging because I was happy to be out there after six weeks. Once I got that one and once I got my first ground ball, everything kind of went away in my head. I was just having a good time.''

The start of the game was delayed nearly 2 1/2 hours and then it was suspended until Sunday because of rain. Freeman was scheduled to sit out Sunday's contest and won't return to the suspended game, either, before playing in Monday's series finale. He said he'll use Sunday to work in the cage and take grounders pregame.

''He got here and came out early today to continue to work on it,'' Gwinnett manager Damon Berryhill said. ''He's more than capable of doing it. He's got good hands, and he moves well. The only thing that really is the difference is the throw across the diamond, which he hasn't done in a while.''

Freeman led the National League with 14 home runs at the time of his injury, but said he'd only hit about three times since being cleared to take dry swings on June 23. After taking four swings across his two plate appearances, he said his wrist held up well.

''It actually loosened up more and more as I kept going,'' he said. ''I don't know how (it) would've done after this rain delay, but right now I feel great.''

Since being acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals on May 20, Adams has batted .294 with 12 home runs and 32 RBIs in 38 games. If Freeman returned to first, the only way for Adams to remain in the lineup would be a move to left field, where he played six games with St. Louis. However, the Braves don't want to remove left fielder Matt Kemp or right fielder Nick Markakis from the lineup.

If he can stick at third base, Freeman would allow the Braves to keep Adams instead of turning him into a trade piece.

''Did I ever think this was ever going to happen? No, but it's a challenge, and I love challenges, I like to compete and this is a whole different thing,'' Freeman said. ''I'm going to be competing against myself pretty much to see if I can make these plays, make all of the different things and prove a lot of people wrong.

''A lot of people have said that I'm not gong to be able to do it and that I should stay at first base. But hopefully I can ease their minds and prove some people wrong going into this.''


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