LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman has spent the past few days fighting to regain the swing that allowed him to consistently drive the ball the other way last year. With a little more than three weeks remaining before the start of the regular season, he can be encouraged by the fact that this is a much greater concern than his previously-ailing right knee.
"I wear a brace only in games now," Freeman said. "It's almost a hassle putting on a brace. I feel like I don't need it. But they won't be too happy with me if I don't wear it. I feel great."
Freeman joined the Braves lineup on March 6, exactly one week after his right kneecap popped out of place during a fielding drill. Most of the discomfort the 22-year-old has since battled has more to do with the fact that he has batted just .162 (6-for-37) with no extra-base hits in his first 11 Grapefruit League games.
"I haven't been hitting the ball to left field with authority like I was last year," Freeman said. "Everything is just opening up a little too much for me right now. I've got two more weeks to get myself going the other way like I normally do."
Freeman recorded a sharp, opposite-field single that raced past third base and into left field in the fifth inning of Sunday's game against the Orioles. He said he will feel comfortable with his swing and approach when he begins consistently hitting line drives to left field again.
Curveball critical to Minor's success
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Mike Minor entered Spring Training knowing that barring a disastrous showing he was virtually assured one of the spots in Atlanta's starting rotation to begin this season. But this has not stopped the left-hander from taking a determined approach to the mound during each of his first four starts of the exhibition season.
Minor extended his recent dominance by limiting the Orioles to two hits over five innings at Champion Stadium on Sunday afternoon. The left-hander has surrendered seven hits while keeping opponents scoreless through his first 14 innings of the Grapefruit League season.
"He's been great," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We've seen this outing after outing."
Minor does not even resemble the pitcher he was last year, when he was essentially an also-ran in his battle with Brandon Beachy to break camp as the team's fifth starter. He's found confidence in the curveball that felt so uncomfortable last year and he has built on the success he found while posting a 3.51 ERA in his final 10 starts last year.
"I'm very pleased," Minor said. "The breaking pitches are getting there and I've been working the changeup this year, in and out, to righties and lefties, both sides of the plate."
Braves catcher J.C. Boscan challenged Minor to throw a number of first-pitch curveballs during Sunday's outing against the Orioles. Last year, the young pitcher felt most comfortable with the curveball when he was ahead in the count and in a position to bury it under the opposing hitter's swing.
Minor also threw some sliders, his fourth-best pitch, against the Orioles. As he approaches his final starts of the exhibition season, he wants to continue gaining confidence in his ability to throw his breaking pitches for strikes.
"Early on, they [were] swinging at [the curveball] when it was in the dirt," Minor said. "Later, they were taking a little bit more. They were kind of learning that I need to throw more strikes."
Gilmartin reassigned to Minor League camp
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Sean Gilmartin made a solid impression before learning that he was among the six players the Braves removed from their Major League camp on Sunday.
Right-handed pitchers Jaye Chapman, J.J. Hoover and Todd Redmond, and left-handed pitcher Luis Avilan were all optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett. Because they are not on the 40-man roster, Gilmartin and catcher Evan Gattis were both simply reassigned to Minor League camp.
"We may see one or all of the guys on that list back in the big leagues this year," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We had a real good crop of kids."
Gilmartin, taken with the 27th overall selection in last year's First-Year Player Draft, allowed two runs in six innings this spring. The 21-year-old left-hander impressed veteran teammates with the respect and work ethic he showed during his first big league Spring Training. On the field, he impressed with his command and ability to consistently repeat his delivery.
Gattis also seemed to make a solid impression, as he recorded three hits in eight at-bats in Grapefruit League play. The 25-year-old catcher won the South Atlantic League batting title and hit 22 homers in just 88 games with Class-A Rome last year.
"His strength is his bat," Gonzalez said of Gattis. "He's going to keep catching and that is a valuable tool. I know he's played a little first base in the Minor Leagues. If you can carry that kind of bat, a guy who can play first base and catch a little bit in the National League, it's a big plus."
• Manager Fredi Gonzalez plans to give Drew Sutton a chance to prove he can play the corner outfield positions over the next couple of weeks. Sutton, who is bidding to serve as a utility man, has played 50 games in the outfield during his professional career.
• Right-handed reliever Cory Gearrin improved his bid to win one of the final bullpen spots by tossing a scoreless inning in Sunday's game against the Orioles. Pitching for a second straight day for the first time this year, he minimized damage against the two left-handed batters he faced. He surrendered an opposite-field single to Nick Johnson and then got Wilson Betemit with an inning-ending popup.
• Jonny Venters allowed two runs -- one earned -- in the one inning he worked against the Orioles on Sunday. The reliable left-hander, who has a 1.89 ERA through 164 career appearances, has allowed at least one run in three of his five exhibition appearances this year.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.