Slumping Freeman doesn't play against Nats

Braves first baseman says he's 100 percent healthy, needs to find his stroke

Slumping Freeman doesn't play against Nats

WASHINGTON -- Freddie Freeman has always put up a fight to play whenever he is healthy. But the Braves' first baseman has never previously felt as helpless as he has in the midst of his early-season slump. Thus, he quickly accepted manager Fredi Gonzalez's decision to keep him out of the lineup in Thursday afternoon's 6-2 loss to Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals.

"Obviously, I'm not too thrilled about it, but when you're hitting .080, there's nothing much you can really say," Freeman said before the game. "It's been a frustrating first week, not only personally, but team-wise. When you're in the three-hole and you can't hit, the record shows. I understand and I get it. I've got to start hitting."

Though there have been many contributing factors to Atlanta's 0-9 start, Freeman's offensive woes -- which are highlighted by nine strikeouts through 32 plate appearances -- stand front and center. The 26-year-old has just one hit -- a broken-bat single -- over 24 at-bats since he homered in his first plate appearance against Max Scherzer on Opening Day.

Freeman battled right wrist discomfort during last season's final four months and as a result of a cautious offseason approach, he did not take regular batting practice until Spring Training. But the wrist has not been a problem.

Freeman's catch in foul ground

Though eight games of action do not provide a sample size ample enough to be concerned about early-season averages, Freeman's frustration has been enhanced by the act that he recorded just two hits in his final 19 Spring Training at-bats.

"I wish I could tell you, 'Man, I'm hurting,' but I'm not," Freeman said. "I'm 100 percent [healthy]. That's the only good thing. I'm healthy and I've been working as hard as I possibly can. So it has to come. The track record I've had the past six years, I know it's there."

Some pitchers have cautiously approached Freeman as evidenced in the seven walks (three intentional) through his first 32 plate appearances. But over the past few days, Freeman has been frustrated by the fact that he has not been able to generate his usual bat speed and take advantage of pitches that he would have squarely hit in the past.

Freeman drove a few balls the other way to deep left field during the series against the Nationals. Often, this is an indication that a player is feeling good at the plate. But driving balls to the opposite field during Wednesday's first two plate appearances, Freeman simply felt like he was late on pitches that he might have pulled in the past.

"My bat speed is just not there," Freeman said. "That's the only problem I have. I don't know if I'm just tensing my shoulders and I've got to get that loose. That's what I've been working on. My swing feels great and I'm healthy. I feel great. So, it's just kind of weird the hits aren't coming. I've never really had this problem before."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.