Braves' Freddie Freeman returns earlier than expected; starts at third base

Atlanta Braves slugger Freddie Freeman has returned earlier than expected from a broken left wrist as he started at third base Tuesday night in a 16-4 loss to the Houston Astros.

Freeman, who was reinstated from the disabled list after meeting early in the day with a team physician, has played his entire career at first base.

He singled in his first at-bat and easily handled his first chance at the hot corner, fielding a grounder and throwing sharply to first.

Freeman broke his left wrist on May 17 and was expected to miss 10 weeks, prompting the Braves to acquire Matt Adams in a trade with the St. Louis Cardinals three days later. Adams is hitting .285 with 12 homers and 32 RBIs.

"We did everything we could to get back as [fast] as I could," Freeman said. "It worked. Dr. Lourie was there every step of the way."

Freeman was off to a torrid start at the plate before his injury, batting .341 with 14 homers and 25 RBIs in 37 games.

The move to third base keeps Adams, the team's new hot-hitting first baseman, in the lineup regularly.

Freeman has not played third base extensively since high school and has not appeared there professionally since 2007, when he played five games as a 17-year-old in the rookie Gulf Coast League.

Freeman spent the past few days on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Gwinnett. He had only five at-bats but said he had no problems swinging a bat. He's wearing a protective cover on his left wrist when hitting.

"I had ease in my mind going into the [batters'] box," Freeman said. "I felt good up there. I had no concerns for my wrist, and that's when I knew I was ready."

Playing third base stands to be a tougher adjustment. He hasn't played the position regularly since high school, but is committed to making it work for the rest of the season.

"Yeah, I'm not coming back to take a day … here and there," Freeman said. "I'm ready to go and hopefully I'll be playing all the games from here on out."

Freeman has worked daily with Braves third base coach Ron Washington to hone his fielding skills. He's most concerned about making throws on slow rollers to third and expects opponents to test him early.

"I'm looking forward to it and hopefully we can get the play made," he said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.