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BRAVES NOTEBOOK: Freeman won’t play in All-Star game; McCann takes his place

Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman received a record 19.7 million votes to win the NL’s “Final Vote,” but a thumb injury is keeping him out of his first All-Star game.

Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman received a record 19.7 million votes to win the NL’s “Final Vote,” but a thumb injury is keeping him out of his first All-Star game.

ATLANTA — After all the passionate campaigning to get Freddie Freeman into the All-Star game, a thumb injury will keep him out.

The Braves first baseman jammed his left thumb while tagging a runner on the first play of Saturday’s game against Cincinnati. He played the rest of the game in some discomfort — he went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts — and had swelling in the joint Sunday.

Freeman will travel to New York for the All-Star game festivities but won’t play.

He was replaced on the NL roster by teammate Brian McCann, Atlanta’s catcher who is batting .291 with 12 home runs and 32 RBI.

McCann was the MVP of the 2010 All-Star Game in Anaheim, Calif. He joins Freeman and closer Craig Kimbrel as the Braves’ representatives.

“It’s unfortunate that Freddie can’t play,” said McCann. “He’s carried us all year.”

With Freeman unavailable to play Sunday in the last game before the break, the Braves activated Evan Gattis from the disabled list and placed center fielder B.J. Upton on the DL with a strained right adductor muscle.

Freeman wore a splint to immobilize his thumb on Sunday and said in the morning that he didn’t know yet if he’d be able to play in Tuesday’s All-Star game at New York. But the decision was made soon after. He won’t play.

He won the last spot on the National League All-Star team by receiving a record 19.7 million votes from fans on the “Final Vote” ballot, finishing ahead of Dodgers rookie sensation Yasiel Puig and three others.

“Obviously I hope to play, but we’ll see how it goes,” Freeman said Sunday morning. “I’ve got to look out for the best interests of this (Braves) team, so I’ve got to be healthy in the second half.”

Upton and his brother, left fielder Justin Upton (calf) were both injured Friday, and right fielder Jason Heyward (hamstring) was injured Thursday. The Freeman injury made it four Braves regulars injured in a 48-hour span.

“We’re as banged up as we’ve ever been at the All-Star break,” Braves 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. But it’s not too bad. So we’re just going to try to take a day off and see how it goes.”

Freeman said he injured the same thumb while sliding head-first in a minor league game in 2010. He seemed confident this injury wasn’t serious, and manager Fredi Gonzalez said he had X-rays.

“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.

Gonzalez said Freeman would be encouraged to travel to New York regardless of whether he played in the All-Star game. He said Freeman got X-rays on the thumb and would be examined again Thursday by the Braves’ hand specialist.

He will get treatment from National League team trainers while in New York, Gonzalez said.

“I think he needs to go, and if he can participate, participate,” Gonzalez said. “If he can’t participate, he needs to go and at the very least, enjoy himself. Hell, yeah. He needs to go. You never know when those opportunities come back again. There’s many guys who’ve had long career, 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, teammate Jason 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.


Gattis' rehab cut short, slugger back in Braves lineup

Evan Gattis rejoined the injury-riddled Braves a little sooner than expected, coming off the disabled list Sunday to fill in for first baseman Freddie Freeman in the final game before the All-Star break.

On the DL since June 23 for a strained oblique, Gattis played two injury-rehab games with Triple-A Gwinnett and had been scheduled to play another game with Gwinnett and possibly one or two games during the All-Star break with lower-level minor league affiliates.

But after Freeman became the fourth Braves lineup regular injured in a 48-hour span, Gattis was summoned from North Carolina, where Gwinnett was in the midst of a series against Durham. Center fielder B.J. Upton went on the 15-day DL with a strained right adductor muscle near the groin.

"Definitely excited to be back," said Gattis, who caught a 7:15 a.m. flight from Raleigh to Atlanta and was in the lineup for Sunday's 1:35 p.m. game against the Reds. "I'm ready to play."

Gattis went 0-for-4 Sunday, lining out twice and flying out twice.

"I hit a couple of balls hard and that felt good," he said. "It felt good to play an actual full game. I DH'd the last two in Gwinnett. It felt good to be out there and play a little first base."

The entire Braves outfield is injured. Both Uptons, B.J. and Justin (calf), were hurt in Friday's game, and Jason Heyward strained a hamstring Thursday.

Gattis had a .252 average with 14 homers, 37 RBIs and a team-best .577 slugging percentage in 53 games (163 at-bats) before straining the oblique muscle in his right side while hitting.

Despite missing 24 games, the catcher/left fielder -- and emergency first baseman -- still led major league rookies in homers (no other rookie had more than eight before Sunday) and RBIs. He also had twice as many pinch-hit homers (four) as any other major leaguer. He's 6-for-8 with a majors-leading 11 RBIs a pinch-hitter.

Gattis went 1-for-8 for Gwinnett, doubling in his final at-bat Saturday night. It was only two rehab games after three weeks without facing live pitching, but Gattis said his timing at the plate was good by the end of Saturday's game.

"A little rusty at first," he said. "Felt good to square up a ball last night. An earlier at-bat I squared up one foul, hit the ball hard. I was disappointed when I struck out. Wasn't because of my oblique or anything; I was just disappointed to strike out. That tells me I'm ready, and ready to compete."

Gattis wasn't permitted to do any baseball activities for a couple of weeks and only graduated from hitting off a tee last week.

"He's healthy, from what I've seen, in his batting practice," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, who got a report from Gwinnett manager Randy Ready before the callup. "His timing was (good on rehab). Randy said he had a double yesterday and a couple of good at-bats, so why not?"


B.J. Upton placed on DL

After Freddie Freeman hurt his thumb Saturday, B.J. Upton knew there was a chance that one of the Braves' injured outfielders would be placed on the disabled list, and that he was probably the most likely one of the three.

When he saw Evan Gattis in the clubhouse Sunday morning, Upton knew a move was imminent.

"Something gonna happen," he said. "White Bear's back."

That's the English translation of El Oso Blanco, the nickname of Gattis, who was summoned from Triple-A Gwinnett after the Freeman injury.

Soon after Upton spoke with reporters, the Braves announced he'd been placed on the 15-day DL with a strained right adductor muscle, near the groin. The center fielder was hurt Friday when his knee planted in the turf as he tried to make a sliding catch.

Left fielder Justin Upton left the same game after his calf tightened while running out a groundball, which the Braves believe was only a severe cramp and not a pulled muscle. Right fielder Jason Heyward strained a hamstring in Thursday's game.

Gonzalez said if he had to use one of them, Justin Upton would've been first on the list Sunday, ahead of Heyward.

"I think out of the three, I'll probably be (out) the longest," B.J. Upton said Sunday, before it was announced he was on the DL. "If they have to, they have to. It's a move they have to make. I'm prepared for it. It's not a big deal. Got the All-Star break coming up. That'll just give me a little bit more time to get healthy."

B.J. Upton's .177 batting average is the worst among major league qualifiers, and his .565 on-base-plus-slugging percentage was the second-lowest in the majors before Sunday. In 207 at-bats, he has eight homers and 102 strikeouts with 33 walks.

After making progress for most of June -- .250 with six doubles, four homers and a .362 OBP in 25 games through June 28 -- Upton was 6-for-38 with no extra-base hits, three walks and 17 strikeouts in his last 13 games.