The Braves put RBI machine and first base stretch expert Freddie Freeman on the 15 day DL this morning with an oblique strain. Freeman told them he could play through it but GM Frank Wren didn’t want to take any chances this early in the season. Perhaps the Brian McCann soap opera was instructive after all. Freeman injured his oblique on March 31st in batting practice and was playing through it until last night’s eighth inning when he was seen grabbing his side after his RBI base hit. To replace Freeman on the 25 man roster the Braves called up journeyman infielder Blake DeWitt because he’s a left handed bat.
DeWitt is a lifetime.257/.324/.380 hitter who this spring put up a slash of .244/.295/.390. Hi RH split of .250/.313/.367 says that as reasons go, this isn’t a very good one. Chris Johnson will play first base in Freeman’s absence. Fans favorite and story of the year Evan Gattis will catch today and hit in the cleanup spot vacated by Freeman
Also heard the morning that Andrelton Simmons will wear a sliding brace when running the bases from now on.
getting better and more resilient …Simmons will be using that sleeve when sliding headfirst from now on, he carried it with him and put it
— Jim Duquette (@Jim_Duquette) April 7, 2013
Simmons sprained his thumb sliding head first into second Friday but hopes to play Monday against the Marlins. Ramiro Pena played short last night and drove in two runs in the eighth inning. He will start there today., okay for a game
That’s a Wrap
The Freeman injury is worrisome as he is our best RBI man and while the ultimately zero reliability (UZR) stat says he’s not a good defender Braves infielders will have to be more accurate with their throws. Johnson at first looks like a third baseman playing first, okay for a game but not for an extended period. Blake DeWitt is one of those great prospects who never quite made it. His bat is forgettable and his glove satisfactory. Why real first baseman Ernesto Mejia wasn’t called up is a mystery. Mejia had a good spring –.346/.452/.462/.913 – and hit two home runs at Gwinnett last night. More importantly he’s a real first baseman. Contrary to general wisdom a real first baseman makes the other infielders better. Here’s hoping Johnson doesn’t get tested.
I said last night in response to Fredi Gonzalez inability to find a way to keep Simmons from hurting his hand while sliding the wrong way that it was his job to find a way. This morning’s tweet from Jim Duquette indicates he’s done something. I still hate the headfirst slide, there are just too many possible injuries there – shoulder, hand, fingers, wrist, head, neck – to make it any more than a high risk - low reward tactic. We worry about injuries from blocking the plate but not sliding head first. Blocking the plate doesn’t happen every game, head first slides do and the injuries can be just as bad; think Roberto Alomar. Young exuberant players like Simmons and Jason Heyward think it won’t happen to them but history shows that it does. Teams seem unable or unwilling to stop it but that’s not unusual. The subject of catchers blocking the plate and getting injured wasn’t much of an issue when McCann suffered that horrible ankle injury but when Buster Posey was injured it became a topic of national concern. Maybe it will take an injury to a media darling like Mike Trout or Bryce Harper (Heaven forbid) to get action on the head first slide and that’s just sad.