Bottom of the 5th inning, one out, with a man on 2nd base in a 6-3 game, the Braves had exactly the man they wanted at the plate, Freddie Freeman. Even with the Braves up 3, it is always nice to grab some insurance runs, but just 2 pitches into the at bat, the Blue Jays’ pitcher, Aaron Loup, threw a 94 mph fastball in tight on Freeman, and, on a check swing, the ball ricocheted off Freeman’s left wrist. Almost immediately Freeman, who is as tough as they come, grimaced in pain and headed to the Braves dugout where the trainer was there to meet him. He was immediately taken out of the game and the whole of Braves nation held their collective breath to hear the word on his wrist.
This afternoon, May 18th, it was announced after a CT and MRI scan that Freeman had suffered a left wrist fracture. No surgery is required however. Freddie looks to be out anywhere from 8 to 10 weeks. The news is devastating for the Braves. The Braves already weren’t going to compete this year but there was always a hope when Freeman was in the line-up. Up until last night, Freeman had been having a truly career year. He was hitting .341 with 14 homers and sported a .461 On-base percentage (OBP). He was tied for the MLB lead in homers with the young Yankees’ star Aaron Judge, was 6th in the NL in batting average, 2nd in OBP in MLB, and 3rd in the MLB in runs scored. According to the stat projections on ESPN.com, Freeman was on pace for over 200 hits, 60+ home runs, 109 RBIs and 48 doubles. Buster Olney tweeted that he was also on pace for 116 extra base hits with 148 runs. Now would he have achieved all of those numbers? No one knows but anything close to that would be ridiculous. This injury leaves the Braves in a tough spot. Who is going to play 1st in Freeman’s absence? Utility man Jace Peterson is starting the game tonight and took over last night after Freeman left. Braves young 3rd baseman, Rio Ruiz, was called up to take over at 3rd. Even in the #1 ranked farm system, according to MLB.com, there is not much at the 1st base position. Do the Braves move one of the catchers, Flowers or Suzuki, over to first? Or do they look outside of the organization at players such as James Loney, Matt Adams, or possibly re-sign Ryan Howard?
(According to Bleacher Report, it has just been reported that the Braves have just signed 11-year veteran 1st baseman James Loney from free agency.)
This injury is devastating for the Braves and reminds me of when slugger Giancarlo Stanton got hit in the face with a pitch in the final month of the 2014 season. Stanton was in the running to win the NL MVP that year but the season ending injury was a crushing blow and Clayton Kershaw ended up winning, a well-deserved MVP. As a baseball fan, and a big Braves fan, I hope Freeman can recover quickly and can come back strong without ill effects.
For more reading on the importance and excellence of Freeman, check out this article also from Chris: Freddie Freeman: Baseball’s Least Talked About Superstar