Posted on June 21, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman is still a few weeks away from returning from a broken wrist. But when he does, he’s likely to be at a new position. Freeman told reporters Wednesday that his “mindset” is to return from the DL as Atlanta’s third baseman. Braves manager Brian Snitker mentioned Tuesday the possibility of Freeman at the hot corner. Freeman has now said that such a move is indeed happening.
The position change comes as a response to how well Matt Adams has performed as Atlanta’s first baseman while Freeman has been on the shelf. Adams is in the midst of the best season of his career. The Braves traded for Adams last month as a way to replace Freeman at first base. Since the trade, Adams is hitting .296 with 10 home runs, helping him post an OPS of .984. He’s likely benefited from being able to play every day.
With Adams swinging a hot bat, Freeman said it was his idea, not the team’s, to come back as a third baseman so that Adams can stay in the lineup every day. Adams could conceivably spend some time in left field. However, every day left fielder Matt Kemp has also been one of Atlanta’s best hitters this year.
“I mentioned it and said I’d be willing to move over to third base to accommodate Matt, who’s been pretty spectacular for us,” Freeman told reporters Wednesday. “It really happened yesterday when I was walking to the field.”
Freeman had his cast removed earlier this week and has been cleared to start playing catch, as he begins his return from a broken wrist. He spent some time fielding ground balls at third base on Wednesday. Afterward, he declared that he “felt pretty good just moving over to the other side of the field.”
Freeman did play third base in high school, so it’s not a completely foreign position. However, his only experience there as professional was five games in the Gulf Coast League in 2007 the summer after he was drafted. Nevertheless, Freeman appears committed to playing third base when he’s ready to return from the DL.
“I’m completely on board with it,” he said. “We got to keep Matt’s bat in the lineup, and I’ll do anything to win. So this is what we came to.”
Despite his inexperience at third base, placing Freeman at the hot corner could actually solve a huge issues for Atlanta. Third base has been a revolving door for the Braves all season. Adonis Garcia started there on opening day but has struggled to perform and is now on the DL with a sprained finger that required surgery. Rio Ruiz and Johan Camargo are currently sharing the position. But the Braves don’t expect either to be a permanent solution.
If Freeman proves he can handle third base, allowing Adams to remain at first base, the Braves could have a rather impressive lineup when he returns. Even if there are some growing pains at his new position, having Freeman’s bat back in the lineup should more than make up for it.
Atlanta is not quite out of contention yet. With help from Adams, the Braves have held it together without Freeman for the past month. They are 10 games out of first place in the NL East and even further back in the wild card race. But it’s not an insurmountable deficit, especially if they get a jolt of life when Freeman comes back. The Braves still have to survive a few more weeks without Freeman. However, the possibility of Freeman returning at third base has to be quite intriguing for the Braves.