ATLANTA -- Well aware of Freddie Freeman's ambitious and anxious personality, Braves manager Brian Snitker was actually expecting the text he received Monday evening, when Freeman exited his second rain-shortened rehab appearance with Triple-A Gwinnett and declared himself ready to return to Atlanta's lineup.Freeman tallied just five plate appearances over
ATLANTA -- Well aware of Freddie Freeman's ambitious and anxious personality, Braves manager Brian Snitker was actually expecting the text he received Monday evening, when Freeman exited his second rain-shortened rehab appearance with Triple-A Gwinnett and declared himself ready to return to Atlanta's lineup.
Freeman tallied just five plate appearances over the past seven weeks and really didn't have much of an opportunity to test himself at his new position. But shortly after gaining medical clearance from Dr. Gary Lourie, the two-time All-Star began his new role as the Braves' starting third baseman in Tuesday night's 16-4 loss to the Astros at SunTrust Park.
Playing two days shy of the seven-week anniversary of learning he had a fractured left wrist and might miss 10 weeks, Freeman began a 1-for-4 night at the plate with a first-inning single and successfully fielded the only ground ball hit to him at third base, the position he selflessly transitioned to, to allow Matt Adams to continue serving as the Braves' first baseman on a daily basis.
"I actually felt pretty good going into it," Freeman said. "When I got that uneasy feeling [about playing third base] out of the way in the rehab games, it's been gone ever since. Obviously, I wanted to get the first one out of the way. It was good to get a nice little easy hop to get the first one out of the way."
Freeman spent more than a week working with third-base coach Ron Washington before furthering his transition to third base Saturday, when he began what proved to be an abbreviated rehab assignment with Triple-A Gwinnett. He had just one ball hit to him in those two games, but by converting that chance into an out, he says he distanced himself from the uneasiness he felt while moving to a position he hasn't routinely played since high school.
After receiving a rousing ovation before singling to left-center in the first inning, Freeman passed another test in the second inning, when he fielded Alex Bregman's two-hop grounder behind the bag and fired across the diamond to record an out.
Freeman also gained a better feel for the speed of his new role when Yuli Gurriel lined a RBI double off the third-base bag in the second inning and Bregman laced a leadoff double in the fifth inning. The 27-year-old veteran dove and got a portion of his glove on Bregman's hot shot.
"It's obviously a different angle for me and you have more hot shots coming over there than you do at first base," Freeman said. "But hopefully I keep playing pretty good defense and those hot shots go into my glove."
Freeman was originally aiming to return to the Braves' lineup during this week's four-game series at Nationals Park. But after taking a multitude of swings Sunday and then getting through Monday night's rehab game without any problems, he requested the meeting with Lourie, who then provided the necessary medical clearance.
"I told him he could stay [with Gwinnett] for another three or four days and never get a ground ball and the first one he gets [in a Major League] game will probably be different than the one he got down there," Snitker said. "He told me he was down there wanting every ball hit to him."
Mark Bowman has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2001.