If Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman misses significant time with a hand injury, the Braves could be in serious trouble.
Of the other 11 position players on the current Atlanta roster, only three have any time at first base. Starting catcher Tyler Flowers played first seven times while with the Chicago White Sox. Starting right-fielder Nick Markakis has six games at first base, including once last season for the Braves.
Then Wednesday night, after Freeman was injured, Jace Peterson played his first game at first base in his pro career.
And that’s it.
So, if Freeman is out, what will the Braves do? Well, if it’s just for 10 days, they could likely survive with Markakis and Peterson at first base. It would be hard to count on Flowers, since the Braves are only carrying two catchers.
If Freeman is out longer, the Braves will have to seek an outside option.
The options in Triple-A are limited. Gwinnett first baseman Matt Tuiasosopo has played in the big leagues in parts of five seasons, including three games last year in Atlanta. But he’s hit only .188 this season, with two home runs and 19 RBI in Gwinnett. He could be a short-term addition, but Tuiasosopo would not be an answer.
Catcher Anthony Recker has played two career games at first base in the Majors — one with the Mets and one with the Cubs. He’s also played 31 games at first in the minor leagues. The Braves could bring Recker up and have him and Flowers available for first, with Markakis and Peterson getting most of the playing time there.
However, if Markakis is not playing in right field, Peterson, Emilio Bonifacio or newly-acquired Danny Santana would have to get at bats.
Some may wonder about Adonis Garcia, the third baseman currently on the 10-day disabled list. But Garcia has never played first base before.
Would the Braves call Kelly Johnson, who is still a free agent and has yet to sign with a team? Johnson has played 63 games at first base in the big leagues. Well, he hasn’t had spring training, so to expect someone to come in cold is unrealistic.
The Braves released Ryan Howard from Triple-A last week, so he’s not an option.
Atlanta general manager John Coppolella will have to look outside the organization if this is a serious issue. James Loney, a veteran free agent, is available. Loney was released by the Tigers on May 7. He hit .229 in Triple-A before being released. Loney played in 100 games last year for the Mets as a first baseman.
Of course, another factor to consider if Freeman is out is the lineup. Markakis would likely move to third, with Matt Kemp staying at cleanup. But then, who would bat fifth? With Garcia and potentially Freeman both out, the lineup would be very different.
We’ll see what the results of Freeman’s tests are, but the Braves are keeping their fingers crossed for good news.
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