'I let them down.' Dodgers' Freddie Freeman laments leaving Canada's WBC game
Freddie Freeman chose club over country Tuesday, the Dodgers first baseman pulling himself from Team Canada’s World Baseball Classic game against Colombia because of a mild right hamstring injury rather than playing through the pain, a decision that wasn’t as easy as it might have seemed.
“It was really tough,” Freeman said Wednesday after receiving three hours of treatment at Camelback Ranch. “I apologized to [Canada coach] Greg Hamilton. I feel like I let them down. He obviously reassured me that I didn’t, but that’s just the way I feel.”
Freeman, 33, chose to play for Canada, as he did in the 2017 WBC, to honor his late mother, Rosemary, who died of skin cancer when Freeman was 10. She was born and raised in Canada; he was raised in Southern California and starred at Orange El Modena High.
Canada did not win a game in the 2017 tournament but went 2-2 this year, including a 5-0 win over Colombia. Canada was eliminated with Wednesday’s 10-3 loss to Mexico.
“Watching on TV when you’ve invested as much as you have in the last week, it’s definitely tough to watch,” Freeman said. “It was a wonderful week. Canada, we put on a good show, a lot better than 2017. To not see it all the way through is hard. So there’s a little bit of a bad taste in my mouth having to leave the WBC.”
The Dodgers were grateful that Freeman pulled himself out of Tuesday’s game, Manager Dave Roberts calling it “a very responsible decision.”
Freeman said he felt “a little tightness” but not “a grab” on a swing in the third inning. He slowly ran out of the box, clearly in discomfort. He played the next half-inning in the field but was replaced in the fourth.
“I thought it was a cramp, but obviously it didn’t go away,” Freeman said. “No matter what game I’m in, I’m going to play it to the hardest of my capabilities, but with opening day 15, 16 days away, I was a little nervous having to go first to third or first to home, so ultimately I had to make that tough decision to come out.”
Both Freeman and Roberts said the injury will in no way impact Freeman’s status for opening day. Freeman, in fact, said he expects to return to Cactus League action by this weekend.
“Opening day is not in doubt,” Freeman said. “I feel fine. Just a little tight right in the middle of my hamstring. I feel much better today.”
Freeman, the 2020 National League most valuable player, has missed just 10 games since the start of 2018. He appeared in 159 games last year, his first season with the Dodgers after signing a six-year, $162-million deal, and hit .325 with a .918 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, 21 homers, 100 RBIs and a league-leading 199 hits, 117 runs and 47 doubles.
The Dodgers are depending on Freeman to fuel a lineup that lost shortstop Trea Turner and third baseman Justin Turner to free agency and Gavin Lux to a season-ending knee injury, and they can not afford to lose the left-handed-hitting slugger for an extended period of time.
The risk of injury is the biggest concern for major leaguers who participate in the WBC — seven Dodgers players, including ace Julio Urías, right fielder Mookie Betts and catchers Will Smith and Austin Barnes, have played in this year’s event — but the Dodgers appeared to have dodged a bullet with Freeman.
“I was hoping the injury was more mild, and I think this is the best-case scenario,” Roberts said. “When you have a situation where we don’t have our eyes on guys, you always kind of have a little bit of nervousness, a little fear of injury, and hopefully this is the worst of it.”
Times staff writer Jorge Castillo contributed to this story.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.