After all the passionate campaigning to get Freddie Freeman into the All-Star game, a thumb injury will keep him out. But at least there was consolation for the Braves first baseman: teammate Brian McCann will replace him.
Freeman jammed his left thumb while tagging a runner in the first inning of Saturday’s game against Cincinnati. A few hours after he pulled out of the All-Star game on Sunday, National League manager Bruce Bochy announced that McCann would replace him.
“It’s awesome,” Freeman said of McCann’s selection. “He’s having a great season. He missed a month and a half and has just gone out and delivered. Once I heard Bochy wanted a third catcher, I had a feeling he was going to be going.”
It will be the seventh All-Star selection for the catcher, who was selected in each of his first six full seasons — a franchise record — before the streak ended in his injury-slowed 2012 season.
“Freddie’s carried us,” McCann said. “It’s unfortunate that he won’t be able to play in the game. I’m happy to be going in his place; I’m happy somebody in this clubhouse got to go in his place. But I feel bad for him, that he won’t be able to enjoy it on the field.”
After missing the first month of this season recovering from October shoulder surgery, McCann has hit .291 with 12 homers, 32 RBIs and a .910 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 53 games, including .410 (25-for-61) with five homers and 15 RBIs in his past 16 games.
“That’s a great honor, and I got a chance to tell him during the game,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “Seven times (All-Star for McCann) here in Atlanta. Six in a row before last year. And for him to get named again, what an honor. And a good guy to choose, too. A guy that’s been swinging the bat, that’s been hot.”
For McCann, this selection is meaningful coming off the major surgery he had after last season.
“Lot of hard work went into this winter to be in this position,” he said. “The rehab that I put in, it’s all paying off right now.”
After getting hurt on the first play Saturday, Freeman stayed in for the entire game – he went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts – and had swelling in the joint Sunday.
Though he won’t play in Tuesday’s All-Star game at Citi Field, Freeman will travel to New York for the festivities with McCann and Braves All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel. Freeman received a record 19.7 million votes to win the “Final Ballot” spot on the NL team over Dodgers phenom Yasiel Puig and three others.
“I couldn’t have asked for anything more,” Freeman said of the support from fans. “I’m still a little disappointed that I couldn’t play for them. But there’s nothing I can really do about it. At least we have another Atlanta Brave in there, with Mac going. It’s going to be a fun time. Obviously I wanted to be able to play, but it just couldn’t happen this year.”
Second baseman Dan Uggla said: “I was really hurt that Freddie isn’t going to be able to play. But the fact that they decided to take Mac in his place, I think that’s really cool. So congratulations to both of those guys. It sucks that Freddie isn’t going to be able to participate, but Mac is very deserving, as well.”
Freeman wore a splint to immobilize his thumb on Sunday and said it felt a little better after getting treatment throughout the day. He’ll continue to get treatment from All-Star trainers in New York and will see the Braves hand specialist for another exam Thursday. He already had X-rays that showed no break.
Freeman was the fourth Braves lineup regular injured in a 48-hour span. B.J. Upton (adductor muscle strain) and Justin Upton (calf) were injured Friday, and Jason Heyward (hamstring) was injured Thursday.
“We’re as banged up as we’ve ever been at the All-Star break,” general manager Frank Wren said. “The break comes at a good time.”
Freeman was injured on the opening play Saturday. Cincinnati’s Chris Heisey grounded to shortstop Andrelton Simmons, whose throw pulled Freeman off first base and forced him to catch the ball in Heisey’s path. When he reached to tag Heisey, Freeman jammed his thumb.
He played the rest of the game with the thumb wrapped, and wore a batting glove beneath his glove to take some of the sting out of throws, particularly from the strong-armed Simmons.
“I guess my thumb was in the wrong place,” Freeman said. “Just one of those freak injuries I seem to run into every single year.”
Freeman said he injured the same thumb while sliding head-first in a minor league game in 2010. He seemed confident the current injury wasn’t serious.
“Just a little bit of swelling, that’s the thing we’ve got to get down,” Freeman said. “But it’s not too bad, I can still do everything, still bend it. Day off (Sunday) and the All-Star break is five (total) days.”
The team had hoped to avoid putting any of the injured outfielders on the DL, but with Freeman unable to play Sunday they decided they couldn’t go with such a depleted bench in the series finale against the Reds.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez said Freeman was encouraged to travel to New York regardless of whether he played in the All-Star game.
“If he can’t participate, he needs to go and at the very least, enjoy himself,” Gonzalez said. “Hell, yeah. He needs to go. You never know when those opportunities come back again. There’s many guys who’ve had long careers, even Hall of Fame careers, and have only gone to one or two of those things. And he’s going to go.”
Freeman is a first-time All-Star in his third major league season. Coincidentally, his pal Heyward was elected to start in the All-Star game as a rookie in 2010 and couldn’t play in the game because of a thumb injury. Heyward still traveled to the game in Anaheim and took part in all the festivities.