PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – Tuesday morning behind the batting cage, first-year Braves hitting coach Greg Walker was asked what he thought about the opposite-field power of young first baseman Freddie Freeman, whose two homers Sunday included one to center field and one to left.
“Oh, he’s good,” Walker said. “He hasn’t learned to pull the ball yet, but when he does, he’s got it there too, believe me. The mechanics of his swing should allow him to pull the ball, he just hasn’t figured out that he can do it yet. But right now we’ll take an oppo [opposite field] home run anytime. Center field, oppo … He’s a monster. He really is. He’s a mechanically correct big guy.”
Then Freeman went out and did it again. He hit two more homers Tuesday — one to left field and the other to left-center — and also had two walks and a sacrifice fly in five plate appearances for a perfect day in the Braves’ 7-5 Grapefruit League road win against the Mets.
The back-to-back two-homer games – the Braves were off Monday – made it four homers in his past five official at-bats for Freeman, who hit .282 with 21 homers and 76 RBIs last season as a rookie.
“I felt pretty good the last week,” said Freeman, whose five homers have all come in his past 13 at-bats. “My swing’s back where I want it to be – back up the middle. I’ve been able to stay inside some balls and get some backspin on them. I feel good.”
He worked an 11-pitch walk with six foul balls in the first inning, drew another walk in the third and hit a sacrifice fly in the fourth inning. Then he opened it up, homering in the seventh inning off right-hander Jon Rauch and in the ninth off righty Ramon Ramirez.
“It’s been three or four games where you’re starting to see his at-bats get better and better,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Freeman, who missed the first three games of the spring recovering from a partially dislocated right kneecap.
He said it took him a while to regain his stroke, and didn’t have his first extra-base hit until Thursday in his 14th game.
Freeman is pulverizing pitches as the Braves enter the final week of spring training. He’s 8-for-15 with a double and four homers in his past five games, after going 8-for-46 (.174) with nothing but singles in his first 13 games.
“It’s spring training, so I don’t really worry too much,” he said. “But when you get closer to the start of the season, that’s when you want to hopefully get into the groove. The last week I’ve started to get balls up the middle and to left field.”
With four homers in two games, Freeman wouldn’t mind if the Braves could head north and start the season right away, instead of waiting until April 5.
““I wish,” he said. “But just got to keep swinging, and hopefully I can carry that into the season.”