04/04/2013 7:33 PM ET
Though much left to prove, Freeman making his mark
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- When Freddie Freeman got off to a hot start last year, he spent a few weeks as the third hitter in the lineup. But it seems safe to say that the speed-challenged Freeman is now in a much more suitable spot as he assumes the enviable role of cleanup hitter for Atlanta's potent offense.
Freeman certainly has much more to prove as he goes through the early stages of this third full season at the Major League level, but the powerful 23-year-old first baseman already has gained the distinction of being the first Braves player since 1916 to drive in three runs in both of the regular season's first two games.
Freeman accounted for Atlanta's first runs of the season when he turned on a Cole Hamels fastball and sent it deep over the wall in right-center for a two-run homer in the first inning of Monday night's Opening Day win over the Phillies. During Wednesday night's win over Philadelphia, he showed his opposite-field power potential with a three-run double to left-center.
"I think he's just going to keep getting better and better with more Major League at-bats," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He's growing patient when he needs to be and trying to just get one RBI at time instead of going for the three-run homer. I see him getting better just because of that."
Hitting coach Greg Walker considers Freeman one of the most talented young hitters he has ever seen.
Gattis' debut doesn't alter Fredi's catching plan
ATLANTA -- On Thursday, one day after homering in his Major League debut, Evan Gattis was back on the bench. But manager Fredi Gonzalez has continued to say that Gattis could play every bit as much as the veteran Gerald Laird while Brian McCann continues to recover from surgery on his right shoulder.
Laird was behind the plate on Thursday night, when Kris Medlen started the series finale against the Phillies. He will also be in the lineup on Saturday, when rookie right-hander Julio Teheran makes the fifth start of his career, against the Cubs.
"I like that," Gonzalez said of matching Laird with Teheran. "They had some success in Spring Training. You've got a veteran and a rookie. I like that matchup a lot."
Gonzalez will not have any other specific arrangements with his catchers. He is confident that Gattis is quite capable of handling Tim Hudson and the other members of the rotation.
With Laird in the lineup, the Braves lose the power potential Gattis showed when he went deep through the stiff wind that was blowing during his fourth-inning matchup with Roy Halladay.
Gattis became the seventh player in Atlanta history to hit a home run in his Major League debut, following Bob Horner (1978), Jermaine Dye (1996), Marty Malloy (1998), Jeff Francoeur (2005), Jordan Schafer (2009) and Jason Heyward (2010).
Gattis' pinch-hitting opportunities will be limited by the fact that the Braves are carrying just two catchers and do not have a definite emergency option. But Gonzalez said there might be some instances in which he'd be willing to take the gamble of inserting Gattis in a late-inning situation and going the remainder of the game without a catcher on his bench.
"You can roll the dice in the eighth or ninth inning and see how it plays out," Gonzalez said. "But it's a tough feeling when you have to play the rest of the way with no backup catcher."
Wren proud of the Braves' athleticism and speed
ATLANTA -- Through the early days of the regular season, the Braves have maintained their reputation as a team that can hit a lot of home runs and compile a high number of strikeouts.
While addressing a group of fans during a luncheon at the 755 Club on Thursday afternoon, general manager Frank Wren provided the reminder that his club can also produce runs with the speed that was added with the offseason signings of the Upton brothers.
"I believe athleticism and speed are two of the best assets we have," Wren said.
Jason Heyward and the Uptons all have shown the potential to hit at least 20 home runs and record at least 20 stolen bases in a season. More important, since the start of the Grapefruit League season, each outfielder has shown a willingness to be aggressive by taking extra bases whenever possible.
"There are going to be some nights when we're going to get thrown out with nobody out or make the third out at third," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "But for the most part, over a 162-game season, we're going to push the envelope a little bit."
• The Braves are the fourth National League team in the live-ball era to open the season with two consecutive three-homer games, following the 2002 and 2003 Giants, and the 2003 Pirates.
• Tim Hudson is three wins from his 200th career victory. Craig Kimbrel entered Thursday's series finale 10 saves from notching the 100th of his young career.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.