Braves' Freeman hopes for more healthful season

By By JEFF BERLINICKE

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) — Battling eye problems and an injured left index finger, Freddie Freeman still managed to set career bests with 23 home runs and 94 RBIs last year.

The Atlanta first baseman jammed his left index finger while sliding into second base in June against Miami, an injury that prevented him from making a fist during the Braves' stretch run. He had vision problems starting in May, bothered by a burning sensation.

"Last year was just a weird one," Freeman said Saturday, wearing a pair of glasses. "I didn't see well the rest of the season and I had my finger injury, so it never felt right. I feel great right now."

Despite the health setbacks, Freeman managed to play in 147 games, just a season after finishing second in NL Rookie of the Year voting. He considered laser eye surgery but for now plans to stick with contacts.

Working out with teammates during the offseason, Freeman followed Dan Uggla's routine, lost 11 pounds and added muscle.

"Dan worked me hard," Freeman said. "I watched how hard he works and started to do it myself. It wasn't easy, but I started losing the pounds and started to feel better. I hope it shows this season."

Uggla, who hit 19 homers and drove in 78 runs for the Braves last season, said Freeman's work ethic was as good as anyone's.

"He worked hard and never dropped out," Uggla said. "I guess he saw my work ethic and bought into it. He's naturally strong, He has a lot of talent and now that he's back to being 100 percent, I think it will pay off."

Atlanta's offense will be without Chipper Jones, who retired at the end of last season, but has added outfielders B.J. and Justin Upton to a batting order that already included Freeman, Uggla and Jason Heyward.

"If I can just stay healthy, I can have a big year," Freeman said. "Last year didn't turn out the way I hoped it would be, and losing in the wild-card game really was bad. But I got started. I got the eyes checked, the finger feels better, and I am looking forward to a big season."

Notes: Jones, who retired after last season, is expected to make an appearance in camp on Sunday as a guest instructor. ... The Braves started workouts late in the afternoon after half the team underwent physicals. The schedule is the same on Sunday the other half of the team goes through physicals. ... Brian McCann said he isn't sure when he'll be ready to start catching after surgery on his right shoulder but speculated that he might be ready by mid-April.

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