April 14, 2016

WASHINGTON (AP) Freddie Freeman admits he's having trouble catching up to fastballs.

So when manager Fredi Gonzalez dropped him from Thursday's starting lineup for the winless Atlanta Braves, the slumping slugger couldn't put up much of an argument.

''Obviously, you guys know I'm not too thrilled about it,'' Freeman said before game against Washington. ''But when you're hitting .080, there's nothing much you can really say.''

Freeman is 2 for 25 this season and hitless in his last four games for the Braves, who at 0-8 are close to equaling a franchise-worst 10-game winless start to the 1988 season.

The 26-year-old first baseman says he's ''100 percent healthy,'' but hasn't had his normal bat speed so far, including in Tuesday night's 2-1 loss to the Nationals and left-hander Gio Gonzalez.

''I know I hit one ball hard against Gio, but I had pitches to hit three times in that same at-bat and couldn't get there,'' Freeman said.

''He was throwing me heaters right down the middle and I just could not get there. That was the most frustrating part,'' he said. ''And you know, I (was) just starting to wonder, `What do I have to do? What's the mechanical fix?'''

The two-time All-Star is a career .283 hitter. He batted .276 with 18 home runs last year despite playing only 118 games because of a wrist injury.

Against Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals' starter on Thursday, his numbers are even better, going 12 for 31 (.387) with three homers and nine RBIs over his career.

Even so, his manager decided to give him a day off as the Braves and Nationals close their four-game set.

''We're not just all propeller-heads here looking at numbers - you watch human beings,'' Gonzalez said. ''If you go straight propeller-heads numbers, he's got great numbers against Strasburg. Not good numbers but great numbers. But right now the way he's swinging and feeling I think it was time.''

Freeman says he thinks the necessary adjustment is to keep his shoulders looser rather than change his swing mechanics.

''I've been working as hard as I possibly can,'' Freeman said. ''So it's got to come, it just has to. With the track record I've had the last six years, I know it's there.''

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