Freeman serious about returning at third base

Braves figuring out how to construct lineup, keep Adams slugging

June 20th, 2017

ATLANTA -- As the Braves were evaluating what to do with Matt Adams when their All-Star first baseman Freddie Freeman returns from the disabled list, Freeman lobbied for an unexpected option on Wednesday afternoon, when he told Braves officials he was serious about making the transition to third base.

"I said I'm completely on board with it, I want to do it," Freeman said. "We've got to keep Matt's bat in the lineup and I'll do anything to win."

As the Braves have gone 16-17 while Freeman has been sidelined with a fractured left wrist, they have benefited from the presence of Adams, who entered Wednesday having hit 10 homers with a .984 OPS in 29 games since being acquired from the Cardinals to serve as Freeman's replacement.

"If I can move to third, then I'll do that," Freeman said. "If I can move back into the middle of the lineup with what the guys have been doing, I think we could have a pretty special last couple months."

Through he was briefly introduced to left field while playing for St. Louis earlier this season, Adams' defensive versatility doesn't really extend beyond first base. So, unless the Braves opt to trade him, the only way for the Braves to keep him and Freeman in the same lineup was subject to the latter agreeing to change positions.

"It shows the type of guy he is and the confidence the organization has," Adams said. "If I continue to keep distractions at a minimum and keep playing the way I know I can play, then this season is going to keep being fun."

Freeman could be cleared to begin hitting as early as Friday and he has spent the past couple days completing fielding drills. There was initially some thought he wouldn't return to Atlanta's lineup before the final week of July. But recent evaluations have placed him ahead of schedule and created the possibility he could actually return either right before or right after the All-Star break .

Freeman spent approximately 30 minutes Wednesday afternoon taking grounders and acquainting himself to the third-base position with the assistance of third-base coach Ron Washington. He will continue working with Washington during next week's road trip and then possibly be cleared to begin playing Minor League rehab games.

"I'm not going to be perfect over there," Freeman said. "I'm going to make my mistakes. It's just me and Wash getting the footwork so that I can do the little things correctly. I think if I do that, everything else will fall [into place]. I'm obviously not going to go out there and make the spectacular plays. I don't expect that. Maybe I'll surprise some people."

Freeman's most recent experience as a third baseman came via five Gulf Coast League games played shortly after the Braves selected him in the second round of the 2007 MLB Draft. The 28-year-old has spent the past decade establishing himself as an above-average first baseman and one of baseball's best overall players. He has earned the right to remain in his comfort zone, but in this instance doing so would go against his constant attempt to be an unselfish, team-first employee.

"If Freddie is into it, then I am," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "It's not something where I'm forcing him to go over there. This is something he's all in with and wants to do. Because of that, I think he's going to be fine."