BRAVES NOTEBOOK: Freeman cleared to swing after visit to specialist

Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman is hopeful he can play today against the White Sox after missing Tuesday’s All-Star game with a jammed thumb.

Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman is hopeful he can play today against the White Sox after missing Tuesday’s All-Star game with a jammed thumb.

ATLANTA — Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman was cleared to start taking some swings again after a visit to Braves hand specialist Dr. Gary Lourie on Thursday morning.

Freeman was set to begin taking dry swings and to hit off the tee when the Braves held their workout Thursday afternoon after traveling to Chicago. Depending on how he felt afterward and what the Braves training staff thought, Freeman was hopeful he could play today when the Braves open the second half against the White Sox, or if not, then on Saturday.

“It’s feeling a lot better,” he said Thursday.

Freeman was one of four Braves starters to go down in a three-game span against the Reds last week, including Jason Heyward (strained right hamstring) on Thursday, both B.J. Upton (right adductor strain) and Justin Upton (strained left calf) on Friday, and Freeman on Saturday.

The Braves are optimisitic about getting both Heyward and Justin Upton back in the lineup on Friday against the White Sox. B.J. Upton is on the disabled list, a decision the Braves made last weekend before activating Evan Gattis from the DL.

Freeman jammed his thumb making a tag at first base on Chris Heisey in the first inning of Saturday’s game against the Reds and was not able to play in Tuesday night’s All-Star game in New York. He’s still wearing a splint for precautionary reasons but his flexibility has improved each day.

Freeman said earlier this week, it was just one of those freak plays that happens at first base.

“It’s just a throw up the line,” Freeman said. “I have to go and catch it and tag the runner. I spun with him and everything. It was just my thumb was in the wrong spot.”

Freeman is leading the Braves in hits (96), batting average (.308), RBIs (61) and on-base percentage (.386). He is third in the National League with a .423 batting average with runners in scoring position. He has been the Braves most consistent hitter since coming off an April DL stint with a strained oblique.

Freeman won fans’ All-Star approval nationwide, beating out Dodgers sensation Yasiel Puig for the Final Vote with a record 19.7 million votes.

g Ratings rise: The Braves ratings on both FOX Sports South and SportSouth in Atlanta are 17.9 percent ahead of last year’s numbers at the All Star Break. The Braves have a 4.15 household rating in Atlanta through 87 games this year, after a 3.52 rating through 56 games last season.

Braves open second half of season in Chicago

CHICAGO — The Chicago White Sox carried high hopes into the season, but Chris Sale securing the win in Tuesday’s Midsummer Classic is the main highlight for a team sitting in the cellar of the American League Central.

The White Sox (37-55) open their post-All-Star break schedule at home against the Atlanta Braves today with the AL’s second-worst record and trail division leader Detroit by 14 games.

Injuries and underachievement derailed Chicago’s first half, and the White Sox may deal several veterans before the July 31 trade deadline.

The Braves (54-41) also dealt with injuries and inconsistency in the first half, but they still hold a six-game lead over Washington in the National League East despite posting a 41-39 mark in the past 80 contests.

The health of outfielders Justin Upton (calf strain), B.J. Upton (adductor strain) and Jason Heyward (hamstring strain) is an immediate concern.

Atlanta also expects to be active at the trade deadline, seeking bench and bullpen reinforcements.

PITCHING MATCHUP: Braves right-hander Tim Hudson (6-7, 4.02 ERA) vs. White Sox left-hander John Danks (2-6, 4.31).

Hudson has emerged victorious in his past two starts following a 10-start winless streak, allowing four earned runs in 14 innings to defeat Philadelphia and Cincinnati.

The right-hander, who turned 38 on Sunday, is 2-3 with a 2.45 ERA in his past eight starts.

His teammates have scored 30 runs in his past three outings, after plating just six in his previous five turns.

Danks will be making his 11th start following shoulder surgery last August.

He has compiled a 2.93 ERA in his past four starts with 20 strikeouts and four walks, but is only 1-2 in that stretch.

Left-handed batters are hitting .292 against the southpaw with five homers in 72 at-bats, and opponents are batting .323 off Danks with runners in scoring position.

NOTES: Chicago shortstop Gordon Beckham is hitting .396 in July but missed Sunday’s game at Philadelphia with a left thigh bruise. ... Atlanta won its first seven road games, but is just 16-26 since that fast start. ... The White Sox finished 7-for-38 with runners in scoring position en route to losing two of three at Philadelphia last weekend.