Freeman records his first unofficial grand slam
Snitker confident with catchers; Albies likely to play Friday after being HBP Wednesday
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Freddie Freeman prepared for the upcoming season by being introduced to the thrill of hitting a home run with the bases loaded. But after drilling a grand slam in the third inning of Wednesday’s 8-2 win over the Tigers, the Braves first baseman received a subduing message from his playful manager.
“I told him it didn’t count, you still don’t have one,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said with a laugh.
Freeman certainly had reason to enjoy drilling Tyson Ross' fastball over the center-field-wall after coming to the plate with the bases loaded in the third inning. But Freeman will still enter the regular season knowing none of the 189 homers he’s tallied while racking up more than 5,000 career plate appearances have been a grand slam.
The Braves first baseman has batted .289 (22-for-76) with the bases loaded during his career. The six walks Freeman has drawn equals the number of extra-base hits (all doubles) he has tallied in these situations. So while he can lay claim to having experienced the rarity of hitting for the cycle, he still has fewer grand slams than retired pitcher Jaime Garcia, who hit one for the Braves in 2017.
Dating back to 1966, 148 Major Leaguers have hit for the cycle. Freeman stands as one of the 21 members of this group who have never hit a grand slam. He and Lou Brock (149 career homers) are the only members of this cycle-but-no slam group who have tallied as many as 100 homers.
In fact, minus Freeman and Brock, the other 19 members of this group have an average of 31 career home runs.
Happy with the catchers
Brian McCann has tallied nine plate appearances while playing in just four games thus far. But the veteran catcher’s swing appears fine. McCann improved to 4-for-8 after recording a single and a double in the win over the Tigers.
Alex Jackson’s prospect value faded when he hit .201 and struck out in 36 percent of the at-bats totaled with Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett last year. But the former first-rounder -- who spent a few years as an outfielder -- has impressed both at the plate, and behind it. The 23-year-old catcher has struck out just once while hitting .375 (6-for-16) with two doubles and a homer.
“He might be the most improved player for me,” Snitker said. “I’ve really enjoyed watching him, and seeing the progress and improvement. He’s got too many good things going to not hit better than he did last year. The raw power is just crazy. I like where he’s at.”
Albies makes a clean exit
Ozzie Albies exited Wednesday’s game after getting hit on the left instep by a 97-mph Victor Alcantara fastball. Snitker said he removed Albies because he was scheduled to play just one more half inning. The All-Star second baseman will likely be in Friday night’s starting lineup.
Toussaint and Wilson impress
Touki Toussaint faced the minimum as he recorded four strikeouts and issued just one walk over three scoreless innings in Wednesday’s win. The Braves prospect had allowed the Tigers five earned runs over one inning just five days earlier. Toussaint didn’t retire any of the first six batters faced in that outing.
Bryse Wilson also completed three scoreless innings while helping the split squad Braves claim a 4-0 victory over the Marlins on Wednesday in Jupiter. Wilson, Toussaint, Max Fried and Kyle Wright are all candidates to share the fifth spot in Atlanta’s rotation on a rotating basis.
Odds and Ends
Luiz Gohara completed a pain-free live batting practice session Wednesday and may be cleared to make his first appearance this weekend. The left-handed pitching prospect was slowed by left shoulder soreness during the early portion of camp. He was shut down near the end of last season because of left shoulder discomfort.
Dan Winkler recorded a strikeout as he worked a perfect inning while making his spring debut in the win over the Tigers. Winkler battled some right elbow discomfort, but he still has enough time to make the necessary preparations to possibly be on the Opening Day roster.
Josh Donaldson and Kevin Gausman will make their respective spring debuts when the Braves host the Phillies on Friday at 6:05 p.m. ET. Gausman was slowed by right shoulder soreness at the start of Spring Training, but he is expected to be in the rotation when the season starts.