Strained oblique forces Freeman to DL
ATLANTA -- Freddie Freeman arrived at Turner Field knowing that he was not going to be permitted to play in Sunday afternoon's series finale against the Cubs. But Freeman certainly was not expecting to be overcome with the outrage he felt when he learned he had been placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right oblique muscle.
"I've got to sit now for 15 days when this is not a 15-day thing," Freeman said. "It could be a two-day thing. Now I'm out for two weeks for no reason."
Freeman has batted .412 (7-for-17) with a home run and a double through the season's first five games. Simply looking at the statistics, it would be impossible to know that the 23-year-old first baseman first began feeling oblique discomfort during a March 31 workout.
Approximately 24 hours after he initially felt the oblique strain, Freeman homered in his first at-bat of the season.
"It's not hurt to the point that I can't play," Freeman said. "I'm playing just fine."
The Braves allowed Freeman to play through discomfort and then grew concerned when they once again saw him grab at his side after he produced an RBI single in Saturday's eighth inning. The decision to place him on the disabled list was essentially sealed when Freeman winced in pain when the Braves head trainer touched the injured area after Saturday night's game.
"There really isn't a gray area when it comes to obliques," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "Obliques are going to be a couple weeks at minimum. If you're really lucky, you can get a player back right after the DL stint. This early in the season we're not going to turn a two-to-three week (thing) into a six-to-eight week by tearing that oblique area."
When asked about the fact that he had been seen grabbing his side multiple times over the past few days, Freeman said he was able to deal with the issue with a series of stretches that began before the game.
"You should see me before games," Freeman said. "I've got to get it loose just to play. It grabbed me just a little bit more during that last at-bat than it had been."
Freeman certainly did not try to hide his emotions on Sunday morning. He loudly expressed his feelings during a meeting in manager Fredi Gonzalez's office and then defiantly took the field to shag fly balls during batting practice.
"He's a young guy who wants to play and you appreciate that," Wren said. "You want him to be out there. But I think sometimes we have to protect players from themselves. They want to play and they want to be a big part of the team, which he is. But this is not a situation where we want to lose him for the first half by letting him go out and tear that area."
Freeman was baffled by the fact that the decision to put him on the disabled list came just a few hours after he was in the on-deck circle as Justin Upton ended Saturday's win over the Cubs with a walk-off home run.
"They didn't even give me a choice," Freeman said. "It's my career. I should be able to make that decision. I walked in there and they didn't give me one."
As Wren said, the Braves also have the responsibility to protect their key players like Freeman, who is targeted to serve as the cleanup hitter throughout this season. Rookie catcher Evan Gattis was in the cleanup spot for Sunday's game.
Chris Johnson is expected to serve as the regular first baseman while Freeman is sidelined. With Johnson across the diamond, Juan Francisco will likely serve as an everyday third baseman during the next couple of weeks. Johnson and Francisco were targeted to platoon at third base.
To compensate for the loss of Freeman's left-handed presence, the Braves opted to fill Freeman's roster spot by purchasing Blake DeWitt's contract from Triple-A Gwinnett. DeWitt, who can play each infield position, has batted .257 in 422 career games at the big league level.