"Unless he's running a six-flat [60-yard dash] here in the next couple of days, I think the reports have been dead on," Gonzalez jokingly said while making light of the fact that speed isn't one of the many attributes Freeman possesses.
While helping the Braves claim a 5-0 win over the Nationals at Space Coast Stadium on Sunday afternoon, Freeman provided even more reason to believe he's ready to accept the challenge that awaits him when he enters this season as a 21-year-old starting first baseman at the Major League level.
2010 Spring Training - null
Sights & Sounds
Spring Training Info
Despite the fact that he has been given no reason to think to the contrary, Freeman hasn't allowed himself to accept the fact that the Braves had basically already given him the starting first-base job long before Spring Training ever began.
If he were to fall flat on his face some time during camp, the Braves would obviously have to scramble to devise a Plan B.
But while hitting .381 (8-for-21) through the first seven games of the Grapefruit League season, Freeman hasn't given the Braves any reason to doubt their Plan A. "I've got no reservations at all," Gonzalez said. "He has range, can hit, hit for power and defend."
During the Feb. 26 Grapefruit League season opener against the Mets, Freeman introduced himself to this great opportunity with a three-hit performance that included a double hit to all fields.
While helping his club's cause Sunday, Freeman displayed his ability to multi-task.
Before delivering a sharp single to open the ninth inning, Freeman spent the bottom of the eighth campaigning for a Gold Glove Award. To account for the first two outs of the inning, he snared sharp grounders produced by Laynce Nix and Danny Espinosa and then delivered pinpoint flips to Jairo Asencio as he covered first base.
"All of the reports said he's able to make those kinds of plays," Gonzalez said.
Freeman walked away from this game equally satisfied that he had proven less anxious than he had been Wednesday, when he felt he was ranging too far to his right on some balls that second baseman Dan Uggla could easily field.
It's Freeman's willingness to listen to advice and put it into practice that has given the Braves even more reason to believe that he'll be able to deal the inevitable learning curve that awaits him during his rookie season.
"I'm just having fun and taking it all in," Freeman said.
Still at the ripe age of 21, Freeman is already experiencing his third Major League Spring Training. Two years ago, while the World Baseball Classic was being played, he took advantage of available playing time and teamed with Jason Heyward to confirm teenagers can indeed find some success against big leaguers in the Grapefruit League.
"They've given me every opportunity and that's all I can ask for," Freeman said. "I just got to go out there and play and be myself. It's a lot of fun."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less