SAN FRANCISCO — Rookie Freddie Freeman’s rapid progress made him the hitter that Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez turned to Saturday to fill Chipper Jones’ important spot in the order.
Not bad for a rookie hitting eighth a week ago.
Before going 1-for-5 on Saturday in his first stint in the 3-hole, Freeman hit .349 with a .462 on-base percentage in his previous 15 games, including 8-for-20 with three homers, six RBIs and seven walks in his past eight.
He has struck out only once in the pasta 10 games.
“Freddie’s hitting third today, huh?” Jones said. “Well, he’s the hottest guy in the lineup.”
Freeman, 21, has impressed with his defense since spring training, but in recent weeks his approach at the plate has drawn increased praise. Particularly his plate discipline and ability to use the whole field, to drive the ball the other way.
“He’s comfortable right now,” Jones said. “He’s not trying to do too much. He’s staying within himself and getting it done. There’s nothing better than a major league hitter with confidence. He’s got it.”
Jones believes the Braves have a keeper in the genial young Californian, whom he envisions having a long and productive career.
“I think he’s going to be a .300 hitter in the big leagues,” Jones said. “He’s gonna run into his 20-25 [home runs]. I just like the way he spreads the ball around. He can hit the ball from foul line to foul line. His first concern is not being a home-run hitter, which is good. And defensively he’s been outstanding.”
Asked if it was easy to forget Freeman was so young, Jones smiled and said, “Well, he’s big as a house, so that makes you forget he’s 21. The future is solid. The future looks solid, let’s put it that way.”
Venters’ strong return
After resting his sore left biceps for two days, Braves reliever Jonny Venters pitched a perfect eighth inning in Friday’s 4-1 win, continuing a dominant stretch for the left-hander. In his past eight appearances, he has limited opponents to an .038 average (1-for-26) with three walks and 10 strikeouts in 8 2/3 scoreless innings.