Braves' Freddie Freeman happy to enter spring at full strength

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KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Battling eye problems and an injured left index finger, Freddie Freeman still managed to set career bests with 23 home runs and 94 RBI last year.


The Atlanta Braves first baseman jammed his left index finger while sliding into second base in June against Miami, an injury that prevented him from making a fist during the stretch run. He had vision problems starting in May, bothered by a burning sensation.

“Last year was just a weird one,” Freeman said Saturday, wearing a pair of glasses. “I didn’t see well the rest of the season and I had my finger injury, so it never felt right. I feel great right now.”

Despite the health setbacks, Freeman managed to play in 147 games, just a season after finishing second in NL Rookie of the Year voting. He considered laser eye surgery but for now plans to stick with contacts.

PHILLIES: Manager Charlie Manuel is tired of talking about his contract, which expires at the end of this season.

“This is the last time I’ll answer about my deal, OK?” Manuel said Saturday. “I’m very satisfied with the way it is.”

Ryne Sandberg, the Phillies’ new third base coach, appears to be the manager-in-waiting.

Manuel said he’s tired of having to explain why he should be worthy of another deal.

“I shouldn’t have to explain it to anybody, the team or President Obama or anybody. Seriously,” Manuel said. “That’s kind of how I look at it. I’m not worried about my contract. I’ve been in baseball 51 years, and right now I definitely plan on staying in baseball and I plan on managing.”

METS: Barring an injury to one of the projected starting pitchers, 22-year-old prospect Zack Wheeler, a former Augusta GreenJacket, likely will start the season at Triple-A Las Vegas. Mets manager Terry Collins said Wheeler needs more time at the highest minor league level, where he made six starts last season.

“He needs to go to Triple-A and pitch,” Collins said. “He wants to be on the staff? Go be the best pitcher in Triple-A. Force us to call him up.”

Wheeler went a combined 12-8 with a 3.26 ERA and 148 strikeouts in 149 innings last year at Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Buffalo.

YANKEES: CC Sabathia threw off a mound on Saturday for the first time since arthroscopic surgery Oct. 25 to remove a bone spur from his left elbow. The left-hander made 29 pitches during Saturday’s session.

“No problems,” Sabathia said. “Probably didn’t throw a strike, but that’s normal for my first bullpen. I got a little nervous when I first got up there. Hadn’t been up there. Didn’t know how I was going to feel, but I immediately felt good and I felt comfortable.”

REDS: Aroldis Chapman was one of baseball’s best closers in his first try at it, helping Cincinnati win the NL Central.

He’s getting a chance to win a spot in the rotation this spring, but manager Dusty Baker is keeping an open mind about moving Chapman back to the bullpen in an emergency.

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