Braves first base prospect Freddie Freeman has had to wait more than a month for his first major league call-up, so the Braves weren’t going to make him wait one more day.
The Braves announced Tuesday Freeman would be joining a handful of others among their September call-ups on Wednesday.
Rather than packing his bags and heading to Norfolk with the Gwinnett Braves, the Braves notified Freeman Monday night he’d be joining the Braves when rosters expand on Wednesday.
Also coming are relievers Mike Dunn and Scott Proctor, catcher J.C. Boscan and Kenshin Kawakami.
(The Braves optioned Kawakami to the Danville Braves Tuesday in a procedural move to open up a roster spot for center fielder Nate McLouth, whom they recalled from Gwinnett Tuesday. But Kawakami will rejoin the Braves roster on Wednesday.)
Braves general manager Frank Wren always says a prospect will tell the organization he’s ready by how he plays. Freeman? He hit .394 with 11 doubles, four home runs and 24 RBIs in 28 games in August.
“He’s been screaming pretty loud for about a month,” Wren said with a smile. “He’s done everything and more we would expect from a 20-year-old in Triple-A. He’s played extremely well, he’s gotten better and better. He’s carried that team, from a standpoint of batting in the third slot, and being the leader offensively.”
After a relatively slow start this season, Freeman came on in June and ended up hitting .319 with 18 home runs and 87 RBIs on the season. He was named the International League rookie of the year Tuesday, the first Brave to win the award since Chipper Jones in 1993.
He’s had the kind of season that more than just the most avid fans notice, but veterans in the Braves clubhouse – and not just his roommate Jason Heyward.
“He’s had a great year in Gwinnett,” Braves pitcher Tim Hudson said. “He’s obviously deserving of a September call-up, probably deserving of a normal call-up some time before now. But he’s a good kid. He deserves it. It’s a great time for him to get his feet wet.”
The Braves traded for veteran first baseman Derrek Lee to play every day down the stretch of this pennant race. But Freeman gives manager Bobby Cox a nice power bat he can bring off the bench.
“He’s had a tremendous year,” Cox said. “He can help us.”
Tuesday was also a day to celebrate for Boscan, a 30-year-old native of Venezuela who’s spent 14 years in the minor leagues, including 12 with the Braves, before getting his first call-up.
“(Bullpen coach) Eddie Perez will tell you his phone has been blowing up today with people from Venezuela calling because they’re so excited for J.C.,” Wren said. “J.C. has earned it. He’s a tremendous defensive catcher, and it’s a credit to him that he’s worked hard to get here.”
Another better-late-than-never addition is Proctor, a reliever coming off “Tommy John” elbow reconstruction surgery, whom the Braves first thought might join them in late April or early May.
“We always hope guys can come back in 12 months, it just took him longer to get his command,” Wren said. “We saw his stuff was good in spring training, but he never was able to quite get over the hump with his command to allow him to pitch consistently well until the last two, three weeks.”
Proctor is 2-0 with a 3.86 ERA in 10 outings for Gwinnett in August, with four walks and nine strikeouts.
Relievers Cristhian Martinez and Craig Kimbrel will both rejoin the Braves bullpen after Gwinnett’s season ends on Sept. 6.