6/19/2013 7:11 P.M. ET
Free passes prompt protective measure for Freeman
By Mark Bowman and Eric Single / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- When Freddie Freeman drew one of the three walks the Mets issued to him during the second game of Tuesday's doubleheader, Chipper Jones, who was seated behind the plate, looked at Freeman and playfully threw his right arm in the air. "He was like, 'They're not letting you play,'" Freeman said.
Until some other Braves begin having more success in run-producing opportunities, Freeman could receive that careful treatment. The Mets walked him in four of his final six plate appearances on Tuesday. Two of the walks were intentional and the other two appeared to be of the "unintentional intentional" variety.
"I'm up there to swing," said a smiling Freeman, who had walked in just three of his previous 99 plate appearances before the Mets essentially decided they were not going to allow him to beat them, like he had with his walk-off two-run homer in Monday night's 2-1 Braves win.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez's decision to move Freeman to the third spot in his batting order on Wednesday was influenced by the approach the Mets took on Tuesday. But Gonzalez said he spent the past couple weeks contemplating batting Freeman third and putting Justin Upton in the cleanup spot.
"Your best hitter is Freeman right now, and you'd like him to be hitting in the first inning and be swinging hard," Gonzalez said. "I think having Justin behind him gives him a little protection. Yesterday, it was blatant. But it's been prior to that -- you go back to the road trip when we were in San Diego, and [Freeman] was not getting pitches to hit."
Freeman entered Wednesday hitting .354 with five home runs and a .970 OPS in his previous 33 games. Meanwhile, Upton has hit .210 with three home runs and a .628 OPS since exiting April with 12 home runs and a 1.136 OPS.
Gonzalez could attempt to protect Freeman by moving Brian McCann to the cleanup spot. But he does not want to put the two left-handed hitters next to each other in the lineup.
Though Freeman's .448 batting average with runners in scoring position ranks third in the Majors, the Braves rank third to last in the Majors with their .226 average with RISP.
Atlanta's four highest paid players all entered Wednesday hitting below .200 with runners in scoring position: McCann (.179, 5-for-28); Justin Upton (.156, 7-for-45); Dan Uggla (.133, 6-for-45) and B.J. Upton (.102, 5-for-49).
The Braves went 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position and stranded 12 runners during Tuesday's nightcap. B.J. Upton was responsible for stranding six of those runners as he went hitless in three at-bats he recorded following the three two-out walks issued to Freeman.
Braves, first-round pick Hursh make it official
ATLANTA -- Jason Hursh did not have any problem with making his first trip to Turner Field a short one.
After signing with the Braves for $1.7 million on Wednesday, the 31st overall selection in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft toured the clubhouse and watched batting practice before that night's game against the Mets, but he planned to head up Interstate 75 to Rome the next morning to join his new teammates for his first Minor League assignment.
"It's been pretty much a relief," Hursh said. "Today's been awesome, getting to sign the contract and everything and just knowing that it's done. It's a good feeling."
Hursh was selected in the sixth round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft by the Pirates, but he chose to play college ball for Oklahoma State. When the Braves took Hursh in the back end of this year's first round, leaving Stillwater for the pros became a much more feasible option.
"I think the Braves kind of made it pretty easy when they picked me at 31, so I kind of had an idea that I wanted to go," Hursh said.
Braves scout Gerald Turner, who saw Hursh pitch as a high schooler in Carrollton, Texas, was able to watch the decision to play in college pay dividends as he kept tabs on the right-hander throughout his three-year collegiate career.
"His delivery's a lot cleaner right now," Turner said. "He was kind of a max-effort guy [in high school], didn't stay on line, elevated the ball. He got a lot of strikeouts in high school because he was a power guy, but they weren't quality strikes. He can paint it now -- he can throw it."
After sitting out the entire 2012 season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, Hursh rebounded to excel for the Cowboys in his redshirt sophomore season. In 16 starts, he finished with a 6-5 record and 86 strikeouts, second only to Oklahoma's Jonathon Gray, who was taken third overall in this year's Draft by the Rockies.
"I knew it was a second chance to come back and really prove that I could still pitch and everything," Hursh said. "It helped, sitting on the sideline kind of really made me develop my mental game more, having a strong mind about it and everything."
After throwing 106 1/3 innings during the college season this spring -- over 20 more than the next-closest Cowboy pitcher -- Hursh expected to throw 20-30 innings for Class A Rome, making a few appearances out of the bullpen before returning to a starting role.
"I leave tomorrow morning, don't waste any time," Hursh said. "I'm ready to get started."
Braves aiming to have Wood in 'pen this weekend
ATLANTA -- Alex Wood will spend the next few days recovering from the 73-pitch effort in his first Major League start in the first game of Tuesday's doubleheader against the Mets. But the talented left-hander will be available to pitch out of Atlanta's bullpen at some point during this upcoming weekend's series against the Brewers.
"We're shooting for him to be available by Friday at the earliest," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He threw a lot of pitches in three innings."
Wood was forced to make the spot start when Brandon Beachy was scratched because of inflammation in his right elbow. Wood had not thrown more than 35 pitches in any of the six appearances he had made since being promoted from Double-A Mississippi on May 30 to join Atlanta's bullpen. The last of the eight starts he made for Mississippi occurred on May 25.
While allowing a run in his three innings, Wood was bothered by a broken cuticle on his left index finger. The resulting blood made it difficult for him to grip his knuckle-curveball. But he and Gonzalez have both said the ailment should not be a problem when he begins throwing again in a couple days.
• Gonzalez spent Sunday night mapping out his lineups for the five games his team would play over the next four days against the Mets. He opted to rest the Upton brothers in the first game of Tuesday's doubleheader. His decision to rest Jason Heyward against a right-handed pitcher (Shaun Marcum) on Wednesday and play him against a left-hander (Jon Niese) on Thursday was based on previous matchups. Heyward has gone 1-for-12 against Marcum and 8-for-20 against Niese.
• Utility infielder Ramiro Pena has seen his playing time minimized since he landed awkwardly on his right shoulder during the June 9 win over the Dodgers. The switch-hitting Pena, who had been starting at third base when the opposing team was starting a tough right-hander, has started just two of the past 10 games.
• Veteran scout Turner was at Turner Field on Wednesday, when the Braves signed their first-round pick Hursh. This marked the second time in the past four seasons Turner has been credited with signing Atlanta's first selection. His contributions to the 2010 Draft were first-round selection Matt Lipka, Andrelton Simmons and Evan Gattis.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. Eric Single is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.