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Freeman confident Swanson will surge

Braves shortstop batting .139 through first 18 games of season
Special to MLB.com

NEW YORK -- As bad as a .139 batting average looks, Freddie Freeman let Dansby Swanson know he has seen worse. He's done worse.

"He didn't start off .080," Freeman said Tuesday at Citi Field before the Braves and Mets were rained out.

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NEW YORK -- As bad as a .139 batting average looks, Freddie Freeman let Dansby Swanson know he has seen worse. He's done worse.

"He didn't start off .080," Freeman said Tuesday at Citi Field before the Braves and Mets were rained out.

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That .080 average was Freeman's eight games into the 2016 season. It never got lower than that, but Freeman was hitting just .177 in late April and .242 in mid-June. He finished the season at .302.

Slow starts can be overcome, a point Freeman made to Swanson when the two spoke this past week. Swanson initiated the conversation, the day Braves manager Brian Snitker left him out of the lineup to give him a chance to clear his head.

"The one thing I told him was I got off to my start last year, and it's not how you start but how you finish," Freeman said. "The hardest thing about this game is to block out what everybody is expecting you to do in this game. He had 38 games in the big leagues last year, and this whole offseason it was, 'This, this, this, he's going to be this and that.' As much as you want to block it out, some of it creeps in."

The Braves still believe their rookie shortstop will be "this and that," despite his .139 average 18 games into the season. While Snitker has dropped Swanson from second to eighth in his batting order, the Braves have said there's been no thought of sending him back to the Minor Leagues.

"I think he's going to be OK," Braves president of baseball operations John Hart said. "We all do."

You can include Freeman.

"He's a 23-year-old, a very mature 23-year-old, and he has a great head on his shoulders," Freeman said. "None of us are worried in this clubhouse. He is going to be just fine in this game. All he has to do is have a good week and the [.139] is gone."

Freeman related how hard his own struggles were a year ago, and he made the point that he had five years of Major League experience and two All-Star selections to fall back on. Swanson is going through this after making an Opening Day roster for the first time.

"It's a tough thing to see your batting average that low, but you can't get 10 hits in one at-bat," Freeman said. "You just keep chipping away. The last couple of days in Philly, he got a couple hits. That's what he needs to do, get a hit a day. He should have had a couple more. He hit the ball extremely hard. I think he's had the worst luck of all of us."

That can change. Freeman knows it. He lived it. He wants to make sure Swanson knows it, too.

Danny Knobler is a contributor to MLB.com based in New York.

Atlanta Braves, Freddie Freeman, Dansby Swanson