Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 5/15/12
Chipper Jones final season with the Braves isnt near complete, but hes already bequeathed something to one of his young teammates. For years, Jones and Braves fans knew where he would be in the lineup. If he wasnt hitting third, he wasnt playing. It was a given. A constant. A fact of life. No. 10 belonged in the No. 3 spot, which generally goes to a teams best all-around hitter, and that honor belonged to Jones for the better part of the past two decades. Bobby Cox installed Jones in the three hole as a rookie in 1995 and began building his lineup around him. Aging and gimpy and facing his baseball mortality, Jones has relinquished his longtime hold on the coveted spot, passing it down to someone both he and the team feel is a worthy successor. There were no trumpets or declarations. Freddie Freeman quietly assumed the third spot this season, not that he cares where he hits in the lineup, as he said Monday. And Freeman is proving he belongs there. He has been in the majors for one season and just about two months, and hes already had a careers worth of highlights. Last year, he became the first Braves rookie to reach 50 RBIs by July 18 since Hank Aaron in 1954. He finished second to teammate Craig Kimbrel in the NL Rookie of the Year race. He had 161 hits, setting the Atlanta Braves rookie record. He had a 20-game hitting streak. And he became the first Braves rookie to hit more than 20 home runs since Jones in 1995. Now in his second season, Freeman is third in the NL with 28 RBIs -- to go with his team-leading six home runs and .277 average -- and he already has twice been named the National Leagues player of the week. Freeman went 0-for-3 in the Braves 3-1 loss to the Reds on Monday before leaving with blurriness in his right eye. He was to see the team eye doctor after the game. Hes been great, manager Fredi Gonzalez said. He really has been great. (Hitting coach) Greg Walker thinks hes the most talented young hitter hes seen in a long, long, long time. Hes been terrific. Freeman rarely finds himself in long, deep slumps, strangely, because he doesnt have a classic left-handed swing. Its short, and choppy at times, and hes already adept at punching the ball the other way. Unlike a spray hitter, though, Freemans hits often are backed by the full force of his strength, which is steadily increasing as the 22-year-old adds muscle to his 6-foot-5 frame. Sunday, he was facing (Cardinals reliever Victor) Marte and he had a 3-2 count, Gonzalez said. Freddy battled and shortened up and ended up getting a double to score us a run with a really unorthodox and ugly swing. He just stuck his nose in there and got the job done. It was the second of two doubles for Freeman, who has cooled at the plate the past week after going through another one of those stretches where hits and homers come in bunches for him. Thats already happened twice this season. He had a week to remember by hitting .478 with 14 RBIs in mid-April and came back two weeks later by ripping up the Rockies staff on his way to batting .367 with three more homers and 10 RBIs the first week of May. The only the thing I have to work on is being consistent, Freeman said. My 0-fors were a little bit longer than I wanted (in 2011). There were some 0-for-13s and 0-for-14s. Youve got to try to keep those to 0-for-7s and 0-for-8s. Ive been able to do that this year and put the ball in play more often. Thats my big goal this year. The Braves hope Freemans presence also will help solve a longevity issue at first base thats persisted for decades. Finding a first baseman hasnt always been the teams first priority. No player has spent five consecutive seasons at first since Chris Chambliss arrived from New York and brought stability and professionalism to the position from 1980-84. Players of varying degrees of ability have shuffled through the position since, with none lasting longer than Fred McGriffs four and a half seasons in the mid-1990s. In fact, Freeman is the first player with consecutive seasons at first for the Braves since Adam LaRoche from 2004-06. The cast has included fan favorites like Bob Horner, David Justice, Sid Bream and Andres Galarraga, and more recent one-and-dones like Robert Fick, Casey Kotchman and Troy Glaus. I prepare myself to play hard every day and go out there and do my best, Freeman said. I dont think about my age or how long Ive been here. Im here competing. They believe in me to be here and they put me in the three hole. Im not going to let them down. Im going to go out there and play hard, and hopefully thats good enough. So the Braves aim to keep Freeman around for a while. He has the endorsement of Gonzalez and all of his teammates, especially the guy hes replacing in the lineup. As Chipper Jones says, we have a No. 3 hitter for a long time, Gonzalez said.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Joe Flacco could miss 3-6 weeks with back injury

Some coaches expect Tom Brady to 'dramatically age’

Boom or bust players for each NFL team in 2017

Bears GM: ‘Mike Glennon is our starting quarterback’

Lucky Whitehead reportedly claimed by Jets

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Reasons for concern with Kyrie Irving's game

Texans have been ‘blown away’ by Deshaun Watson

Floyd Mayweather is recruiting Nate Diaz to be in his fight corner vs Conor McGregor

When will it be OK to worry about Clayton Kershaw?

Ivy League-educated ex-NFLer questions recent CTE study

Timberwolves seriously exploring Kyrie Irving trade

The 'Cooperstown: The New Class' quiz

For the revitalized Pirates, trade deadline has newfound meaning

Every MLB team's best and worst deadline trade from the last 25 years

The 'Kyrie revolts against the King' quiz

The most memorable moments from the class of 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame inductees

BIG3 Ref Hotline Bling: James White slams the phone down

Box Score 7/25: The pressure of the trade deadline is here

The 'When George Brett went completely batty' quiz

Finding the possible Achilles' heel for baseball’s best teams

Getaway Day: A pair of aces get lost in the shuffle

Sports & Politics Intersect: Trump casts shadow over U.S. Women's Open

Best of Yardbarker: General managers take the spotlight

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Yardbarker Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

For the revitalized Pirates, trade deadline has newfound meaning

The 'Cooperstown: The New Class' quiz

The 'Kyrie revolts against the King' quiz

BIG3 Ref Hotline Bling: James White slams the phone down

The 'When George Brett went completely batty' quiz

Finding the possible Achilles' heel for baseball’s best teams

Getaway Day: A pair of aces get lost in the shuffle

Sports & Politics Intersect: Trump casts shadow over U.S. Women's Open

The National League Wild Card is suddenly relevant again

The 'Pay that man his money' quiz

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker