Freddie Freeman hit a three-run homer Saturday in his first game back in the Braves lineup after missing two starts for a jammed thumb, while Jason Heyward took another precautionary rest day and is expected to play in Sunday’s series finale against the White Sox.
Heyward strained his right hamstring on July 11 while sliding. The right fielder said Saturday that he did all activities Friday, including hitting and running, without incident.
“I felt like today I’d be ready to play,” he said. “The mindset … is that the day I feel like I’m ready to play, give yourself one more day, with a hamstring. So if I feel good today, like I can play, then let (manager) Fredi (Gonzalez) know that, hey, I can be a defensive replacement late in the game for you, and tomorrow, let’s go get ’em. Of course, barring any setbacks.”
Heyward has missed five starts since the injury, including two games since the All-Star break.
“My understanding was that he needed another day,” said Gonzalez, who discussed the situation with head trainer Jeff Porter late Friday.
Freeman missed two starts after jamming his left thumb tagging a runner in the next-to-last game before the All-Star break. After taking batting practice Friday for the first time in a week, he felt ready to play, but the Braves wanted to make sure he didn’t push it too soon. He had a sacrifice fly and a two-run homer Saturday.
He was used as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning Friday and promptly was run over by 275-pound White Sox slugger Adam Dunn on the first play Freeman was involved in, a ground out to Dan Uggla. The second baseman made a good play to field it and bounced an off-balance throw that forced Freeman to extend to his right.
The movement put him in the path of Dunn, who tried to go around him and ended up kneeing the 240-pound Freeman in the back, sending both players tumbling. Freeman made the play and held on.
“Of course, the first play I get hit,” said Freeman, who gave the Braves a scare. “I looked in the dugout and I see (Porter), and his face is just like he saw a ghost. … It was just one of those plays. I’m right in the baseline. I know I was probably going to probably get hit, but I just had to get that pick after Uggla made a great play.”
Freeman was asked if he tried to protect his thumb when he fell after the collision.
“No,” he said, “when I’m out there, I’m not even going to think about it. That’s where I’m at right now. I feel great. Obviously it’s not 100 percent, and I don’t think it’s going to be 100 percent. But it’s good enough to play.”
Beachy or Wood could get call: If Paul Maholm’s sprained left wrist forces him to miss a start, the Braves could replace him with Brandon Beachy or Alex Wood, both impressive in starts for Triple-A Gwinnett in the past week.
Wood, a rookie left-hander, was sent to Gwinnett before the All-Star break to get more innings and get stretched out to start again, the planned role for him next season (or sooner). The 22-year-old former University of Georgia standout had a 2.45 ERA in 16 games in his first major league stint, including 15 relief appearances and a spot start in a doubleheader.
In his first Triple-A start Thursday, he pitched five innings and allowed three hits, one run and two walks with five strikeouts. He also hit two batters and threw 46 strikes in 71 pitches to earn a win. The Braves wanted him to get innings to build arm strength and give them depth in case of injury or if they were to trade another starter.
Beachy, 13 months into rehab from Tommy John elbow surgery, pitched Friday for Gwinnett and worked five innings, allowing five hits, one run and one walk with three strikeouts. He threw 46 strikes in 70 pitches, then threw 15 more fastballs in the bullpen to get his pitch count to the targeted 85.
Beachy’s rehab start was his eighth, in addition to two starts in extended spring training. He was set to rejoin the Braves last month before developing inflammation in his surgically repaired elbow.
In 13 starts for the Braves last season, Beachy had a 2.00 ERA, a .171 opponents’ average and 68 strikeouts in 81 innings before his season-ending injury.
Before the Braves’ game Saturday, Gonzalez discussed plans for Beachy.
“It sounds like it’s getting close,” he said. “We’ll re-evaluate tomorrow and the next day, see where we go as far as the next step. Another outing, get him to seven innings or something like that.”
A few hours later, Maholm was charged with seven runs in three-plus innings against the White Sox and left with a sprained wrist on his throwing arm. Gonzalez didn’t think Maholm would require a stint on the disabled list and said he might not miss a start.