LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman made an early arrival to Spring Training on Friday morning, he anxiously looked forward to testing the physical improvements he made during the offseason. A few months of rest allowed him to regain strength in the left wrist he
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman made an early arrival to Spring Training on Friday morning, he anxiously looked forward to testing the physical improvements he made during the offseason. A few months of rest allowed him to regain strength in the left wrist he fractured in May 2017, and the Lasik surgery he underwent in October has positioned him to avoid the dry-eye discomfort his contact lenses had occasionally caused on windy days.
"We actually took the golf cart around yesterday, and I had wind blowing in my eyes and it felt great," Freeman said. "I could see. I've been testing it here and there with different scenarios. I can wake up and see, which is the greatest thing ever. I don't have to reach for glasses anymore. It's been pretty cool."
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Freeman was named National League Player of the Week twice (April 16-22) and (April 30-May 6) during the early portion of the 2012 season. But his chronic dry-eye issues began when wind irritated his eyes before a May 7 game at Wrigley Field that same year.
As Freeman battled some eye discomfort through a portion of that 2012 season and during many of the ensuing trips to Chicago and Denver, he began thinking about having the Lasik procedure. But he wisely waited, partly because he knew about Brian McCann's experiences after the catcher underwent the surgery after the 2007 season.
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McCann was just 23 years old when he first had his eyesight adjusted via this procedure. He experienced problems, including blurred vision, over the ensuing two years, and he had to undergo the surgery again after the 2009 season.
"They always say to wait three years for your eyes to stop changing," Freeman said. "That's exactly what I did. They said to do it when you're about 27 years old, too. I've been counting down the years, waiting to get it because ever since I had those eye problems in 2012, there are certain cities where my contacts dry out and it's been a real struggle."
Freeman certainly didn't struggle last year, as he hit .341 with 14 home runs and a 1.209 OPS through the 37 games he played before his left wrist was fractured by a pitch during a May 17 game against the Blue Jays. Freeman returned from the disabled list on July 4, but he steadily lost strength in his wrist down the stretch, hitting .292 with 14 homers and a .890 OPS over his final 80 games.
Though he didn't begin swinging a bat until December, Freeman began his strength program about a week after last season concluded. He placed his primary focus on his forearms.
"I didn't start hitting until two months [after the season ended], and I think that was the perfect timing," Freeman said. "I could still feel it the first month I was hitting, but that went away as I got stronger and stronger. I feel great and I'm ready to go. I have no reservations about my wrist whatsoever."
Afer playing through the first three years of the Braves' rebuilding process, Freeman knows the challenges this year's youthful squad will face in the upcoming season. But the rejuvenated first baseman still thinks he and his teammates should believe they are capable of becoming surprising postseason contestants.
"It's been frustrating for four years, and I think everybody in this clubhouse wants to get back to the winning ways," Freeman said. "Anything less than getting to the playoffs, in my opinion, every single year, is a missed season. That's the goal this year. I don't expect us to go out there and not try to get to the playoffs."
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.