Freeman excited for his first spring game; Braves using most regulars for first time

Freddie Freeman was in the lineup Monday for his first game of Braves spring training, which meant the veteran slugger tossed and turned throughout the night.

“When you love baseball, you love it,” he said. “It’s just part of it. It’s the first game, so I’m excited.”

Freeman played four innings and hit the ball hard in his both of his at-bats Monday, a single to center in the first inning and line drive into a double play in the third inning of a 2-1 win against the Nationals in the Braves’ home opener.

“It’s like after the first week you just put him in a freezer, because he can probably hit with a week’s worth (of at-bats), he’d be ready to go,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “Not even that many. I remember Bob Horner was the same way. It’s why (Freeman) is elite.”

Ozzie Albies and Kurt Suzuki had two hits apiece for the Braves and Julio Teheran pitched two scoreless innings (two hits, two walks) in his spring debut.

Freeman, who’s played seven opening days, made two All-Star teams, finished fifth and sixth in National League MVP balloting and was recently rated the second-best first baseman in the majors, still gets the adrenaline pumping in anticipation of an exhibition game in late February.

“I woke up four times during the night, like the first day of school,” Freeman said Monday morning, four hours before the first pitch against the Nationals in the Braves’ Grapefruit League home opener. “I kept looking outside to see if it was still dark outside.  It doesn’t matter if it’s spring training, it’s still the first game and it’s always exciting. “

He smiled and added, “Now, talk to me in three weeks and I might be a little over this.”

By then Freeman expects to have all the games and workouts he needs to be ready for the regular season. The Braves played three games before Monday, all on the road and featuring bus rides of more than two hours to Port St. Lucie and West Palm Beach. Manager Brian Snitker left his veterans back at Braves camp in Lake Buena Vista to do full workouts those three days rather than take the bus south.

“It’s been great,” Freeman said of the unusual start to the spring schedule. “I think I’m slated to play 20 or 21 games this spring, so I’m still going to get my 50 or 60 plate appearances. That’s all you really need. Plus we’ve got a lot of young guys, so it’s good for them to get some ‘show’ time and let the coaches see them too.”

Some notably youthful and inexperienced lineups and pitching staffs lost all three games on the road to the Mets, Astros and Nationals the past three days. Monday was the first game of the spring for most Braves regulars including Freeman, Ender Inciarte, Tyler Flowers, Nick Markakis and Kurt Suzuki, as well as Monday’s starting pitcher Julio Teheran.

The Braves’ lineup looked a lot like one that many believe could be the regular lineup by the end of April, with the exception of having both catchers Flowers and Suzuki in it. (Suzuki was designated hitter Monday, since teams don’t have their pitchers hit early in spring training.)

Braves lineup Monday vs. the Nationals:

  1. Ender Inciarte CF
  2. Ozzie Albies 2B
  3. Freddie Freeman 1B
  4. Tyler Flowers C
  5. Nick Markakis RF
  6. Johan Camargo 3B
  7. Ronald Acuna LF
  8. Kurt Suzuki DH
  9. Dansby Swanson SS

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