Dodgers takeaways: Freddie Freeman looking forward after emotional return to Atlanta

Dodgers star Freddie Freeman reacts to a standing ovation during his first at-bat against the Atlanta Braves.
Dodgers star Freddie Freeman reacts to a standing ovation during his first at-bat against the Atlanta Braves on Sunday. Freeman played against his former team, the Braves, in Atlanta for the first time since signing with the Dodgers.
(Bob Andres / Associated Press)

Freddie Freeman’s head hurt. His eyes were red. He looked and sounded physically and emotionally spent.

“I was really looking forward to this weekend,” Freeman said Sunday night, standing in front of his locker at the end of a whirlwind three days at Truist Park. “I’m also kind of glad it’s over, so I can just focus on baseball.”

Even amid a dramatic series between the Dodgers and Atlanta Braves, Freeman’s return to Atlanta was bigger than the games.

On Friday, in a tearful press conference before his first game back in Atlanta, Freeman began the reunion by claiming he wasn’t looking for “closure” with the Braves, insisting he had no regrets three months after leaving a team he once never wanted to leave.

In a game featuring blown saves by closers facing their former teams, the Dodgers rally to defeat the Atlanta Braves 5-3 in a potential playoff preview.

June 26, 2022


By Sunday night, though, it was clear the former MVP had worked through some unresolved feelings, finally getting an emotional bookend that only a trip to his former home ballpark could provide.

“It exceeded all my expectations,” he said. “I’ve been thinking about this for three months.”

With the weekend over, here are five takeaways on Freeman’s homecoming, the Dodgers’ series win and where the rest of the team stands entering the final leg of its nine-game trip in Colorado starting Monday.


Freddie Freeman looking forward after reunion

Freddie Freeman acknowledges the crowd while receiving a standing ovation.
Freddie Freeman acknowledges the crowd while receiving a standing ovation at Truist Park in Atlanta on Sunday.
(Bob Andres / Associated Press)

Players returning to play their former teams is nothing new in the major leagues.

But there have been few examples as highly anticipated, unabashedly commemorated or emotionally raw as what Freeman took part in last weekend, featuring everything from a World Series ring ceremony Friday to long ovations (and occasional boos) before his at-bats.

“I’m emotionally drained,” Freeman said afterward.

The proceedings weren’t lost on his new teammates, either.

After Friday’s game, Trea Turner noted the extraordinary nature of the scene, when Freeman fought back tears during a stadium address.

“Moments like this are special,” Turner said. “You don’t really see moments like this all the time. We love Freddie here. We want to have his back and be out there for him in situations like that.”

Chris Taylor echoed similar sentiments.


“The crowd welcoming him with open arms, seeing that was good to see,” Taylor said. “He’s done so much for this organization. So it’s good to see them appreciate what he’s done.”

There was speculation as to how the reception was being viewed by the Dodgers clubhouse.

Clayton Kershaw told the Atlanta Journal Constitution the ceremony for Freeman was a “very cool” moment but added: “He’s obviously been a big contributor for our team. And I hope we’re not second fiddle. It’s a pretty special team over here, too. I think whenever he gets comfortable over here, he’ll really enjoy it.”

Brusdar Graterol gave up a go-ahead, two-run homer as the Dodgers lost 5-3 at Atlanta after finding out Daniel Hudson (torn ACL) is done for the season.

June 25, 2022

Kershaw declined to elaborate, reiterating only that Freeman’s reception had been “very classy.”

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was also asked about how Freeman’s homecoming had been received by his new team.

“I think I can speak for most of our players — and hopefully all of them — that’s a special moment for him and his family,” Roberts said. “To appreciate what a player means, your teammate means to a certain city, that’s a good thing. I thought the Braves did a great job. I thought Freddie’s emotion was honest.”


Asked whether Freeman’s homecoming had become a distraction for the team, Roberts answered emphatically.

“Absolutely not,” he said.

Instead, Roberts complimented the first baseman following his four-for-12 performance in the series.

“This is probably as much as he’s ever been tested, I think, emotionally,” Roberts said. “And he passed with flying colors.”


Kenley Jansen settling in Atlanta

Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Kenley Jansen delivers against the Dodgers.
Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Kenley Jansen delivers against his former team, the Dodgers, during the ninth inning Saturday.
(Bob Andres / Associated Press)

Kenley Jansen was also facing his former team this weekend, though the sight of the Dodgers no longer seems so sentimental for the first-year Braves closer.

Instead, he said that his return to Dodger Stadium earlier this year gave him closure on his 12 years in Los Angeles and that while he’ll forever be “thankful and grateful of the Dodgers, giving me my chance and opportunity as a pitcher,” he is also trying to prove himself again after signing with the Braves this offseason.


“My whole career I had to fight and show people that I deserved it, that I earned it,” said Jansen, who has a 3.58 ERA and 20 saves this year, but converted only one of two chances against the Dodgers last weekend.

Kenley Jansen grew up rooting for the Atlanta Braves. When they made him an offer and the Dodgers asked him to wait, he decided to go with his boyhood favorite.

March 20, 2022

“Right now, it’s the same attitude that I have. I’m not on that squad [with the Dodgers] anymore. I’m showing it again, but if I’m here, I’ve got to earn it. That’s my motivation every year. I’ve got to earn it.”

These days, Jansen said playing the Dodgers feels more like “a family reunion” — one that inspired him on Saturday to find his highest average fastball velocity of the season at 96.6 mph.

“I know how great they are as hitters, man,” Jansen said. “You can’t make mistakes with those guys. For me, they know me so well I’m going to come out firing.”

Would Jansen be in favor of playing the Dodgers again in the playoffs?

“I would love it,” he said. “It would be a dream come true. Why not? Facing my old teammates? Why not? It would be a great fight. I think the league wants it too. See the [past] two champions battle … I think that would be good for baseball.”

Freddie Freeman, a longtime Brave who helped that team win last year’s World Series, had a tearful but happy day in Atlanta with the Dodgers, who won 4-1.

June 24, 2022


Trayce Thompson’s strong week

Trayce Thompson hits a two-run single in the ninth inning during the Dodgers' 5-3 win over the Atlanta Braves on Sunday.
(Bob Andres / Associated Press)

After one week, Trayce Thompson’s return to the Dodgers is off to an encouraging start.

After being acquired in a trade with the Detroit Tigers this week, the outfielder provided a couple key contributions in his first six games, none bigger than the game-tying two-run single he hit off Jansen in the ninth inning Sunday.

Overall, Thompson is five for 16 with a double, a home run and five RBIs. After misplaying a line drive in right field on Saturday that got over his head for a double, he made an important running catch on a blooper Sunday, as well.

“Trayce has been great,” Roberts said of the 31-year-old, who was with the club in 2016 and 2017. “I think it speaks to obviously what we think of him, and I think he’s just able to hit the ground running because he’s comfortable here. He knows the staff, he knows what we’re all about and I think he can be the best version of himself, and he’s coming up big for us in this short period of time.”


Thompson agreed, even if his self-evaluation was more modest.

“I’ve had some quality at-bats, some not quality at-bats,” he said. “I just try to prepare every day and help these guys win games. It helps when there’s a lot of guys who I’m close with and obviously familiar with. So it’s good. You always want to win, so I’m just trying to make the most of my opportunity.”


Brusdar Graterol’s first save

Dodgers reliever Brusdar Graterol pitches against the San Francisco Giants on June 12.
(Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)

Brusdar Graterol said he’s not a fan of off days.

Last weekend, he didn’t get any.

Instead, the right-hander pitched all three games against the Braves, just the second Dodgers pitcher to appear on three straight days this season. His best game was the last one, too, bouncing back from a two-run setback on Saturday by collecting his first career regular-season save on Sunday.

Even without much rest, his velocity topped out at a season-high 102.5 mph Sunday, tying the highest of his career.

Was he surprised?

“Not really,” he said through an interpreter. “I felt really good out there.”

Dodger reliever Caleb Ferguson thinks he’s ready to pitch, but the Dodgers believe his arm soreness means he needs another break before returning.

June 23, 2022


Bigger role for David Price?

Dodgers reliever David Price throws against the Cincinnati Reds on June 21.
(Aaron Doster / Associated Press)

Left-hander David Price also flashed his highest average fastball velocity of the season on Saturday, which could make the Dodgers reconsider his role in the bullpen.

While the team still isn’t considering stretching out the 36-year-old to start games, Roberts said Price could see more leverage opportunities out of the Dodgers’ banged-up bullpen.

If, that is, performances such as Saturday keep repeating themselves.

“Obviously, it’s very encouraging to know it’s in there,” Roberts said. “The hope is that he would do it the next time he goes out there, as far as velocity. That’s the first time we’ve seen that all year. So it would be great if he can repeat that.”