One month since pitchers and catchers reported to spring training and 2½ weeks before opening day, Braves slugger Freddie Freeman answered some questions Sunday after playing the first half of a Grapefruit League game against the Tigers.
He talked briefly about the state of the team as spring training nears the final stretch of games, a period where a lot of young players are sent to minor league camp and we start to get a longer look at the actual team we’ll see when the regular season begins.
Q. Where are you midway through camp, how do you feel?
A. I feel great. I’m healthy, that’s all I can ask for. I want to play every single game, so getting through camp is the big test. I just want to get through it healthy and hopefully play 162.
Q. What do you like about the team, what has stood out for you so far?
A. The games I’ve played, it’s been fun to watch. The young guys have been playing incredible baseball. You want to make a good impression and a lot of guys have. Like, a couple of guys got sent out just to get innings, but there was big talk in the camp about (pitching prospects Mike) Soroka and (Kolby) Allard (before they were sent to minor league camp). So that’s what you want to see.
Some people can try too hard when you get in your first big-league camp and we haven’t really had any of that. All these guys, we try to make them feel welcome so they can go out there and play as well as they can, and it’s showing. Everybody’s having a good camp so far and we’re playing really good baseball. As our starters keep going longer and longer it’s going to be fun to watch.
Q. What do you think of third base prospect Austin Riley’s improvement since last spring?
A. It’s big. I think his one thing is strikeouts. If he can get that down he’s going to be, I think, an all-around player. When Chipper (Jones) was here I was talking to him and he said (Riley’s) defense has improved so much. Once you get the feel of things and how they’re going to pitch to you and this and that, then you can start making adjustments hitting. But if you can catch the ball and throw the ball, then you start hitting and everything comes into place, they’ll find a spot for you.
Q. The kid Acuna seems OK, huh? (Question about much-chronicled No. 1 prospect Ronald Acuna, asked sarcastically.)
A. He’s pretty good. (Freeman smiles.) No, he’s been playing great. Hopefully it continues. That’s the whole thing you want to do is make (roster decisions) hard on the front office, and he’s doing a great job of that.
Q. Acuna is showing some plate discipline, huh?
A. Yeah, that 3-2 slider from (Tigers starter Francisco) Liriano in his first at-bat today, that’s a big-league take. That’s all you can ask for. Some young guys want to go up there and do everything they possibly can to get a hit, but he’s showing the patience right there. That was a big at-bat.