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INSIDE PITCH: Braves have backup while Freeman's on DL

The bad news for the Braves was that Freddie Freeman, who was off to a hot start, went onto the disabled list just five games into the season. The good news was that at least they had Chris Johnson to take over at first base.

Johnson was sharing time at third with Juan Francisco. Now both will get to be in a lineup that must carry on without its cleanup hitter.

Freeman, who was 7-for-17 with a home run and five RBIs, winced and grabbed his side after an eighth-inning single on Saturday and was put on the disabled list Sunday with a right oblique strain.

The left-handed hitter was unhappy about having to go on the DL, insisting that he could play through the soreness. But the Braves chose to be cautious, not wanting Freeman to aggravate the injury and possibly be sidelined much longer than 15 days.

“Sometimes we have to protect players from themselves,” general manager Frank Wren said.

Freeman tweaked his side during a workout March 31, but homered in his first at-bat the next night in the season opener and had shown no issues until late in Saturday’s game.

“I’m not hurt to the point that I can’t play,” Freeman said.

Freeman avoided going on the disabled list last season despite dealing with hand, knee and eye issues and seemed poised for a banner season after hitting .342 with seven homers and 16 RBIs in spring training.

Johnson, acquired from Arizona as part of the Justin Upton trade, also had a good spring, hitting .361 with three homers and 12 RBIs. But when Francisco hit .333 with six homers and 14 RBIs, manager Fredi Gonzalez elected to platoon the right-handed hitting Johnson and lefty-swing Francisco at third base.

Johnson had played in just six games at first base previously in his major league career, but manned the position in college and saw extensive action there during spring training.

To take Freeman’s spot on the active roster, the Braves promoted former major league infielder Blake DeWitt from Class AAA Gwinnett. He supplies a left-handed bat off the bench.

THE GAME: Hudson helper

Right hander Tim Hudson did it with his arm and his bat on Sunday, as the veteran helped Atlanta to a 5-1 win over Chicago at Turner Field.

Hudson (1-0) gave up only one run, allowed just three hits and struck out seven in 6 2/3 innings to win the 198th game of his career. Hudson also had an RBI single that padded the lead and gave the Braves a three-game sweep over the Cubs, the first time that’s happened since July 2005.

“He gave us a great opportunity to win today,” said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez.

Hudson gave up a run the first in the first inning when David DeJesus doubled and scored on an infield out. After the leadoff hit, Hudson retired 20 of the next 23 batters and was pulled with two outs in the seventh when the Cubs got two runners on base.

Hudson is now 136-3 when given a three-run lead and has won 74 straight decisions in those situations.

Hudson outdueled Chicago right-hander Jeff Samardzija (1-1), who struck out a career-high 13 in 5 2/3 innings and absorbed his first career loss to Atlanta.

NOTES, QUOTES

RECORD: 5-1

STREAK: Won three.

NEXT: Braves (Paul Maholm, 1-0, 0.00) at Marlins (Kevin Stowey, 0-1, 1.69)

--LF Justin Upton’s dramatic game-winning home run on Saturday gave him five homers this season, making him the first player since 1900 to hit five home runs in his first five games with a team. It was the fifth two-homer game and second game-winning homer of his career.

--LHP Paul Maholm looks to build on his strong first start, which saw him throw 5 2/3 scoreless innings in a win against the Phillies. Maholm allowed six hits and struck out six. He is 2-1 with a 1.27 ERA in three career starts against the Marlins. He has struck out 15 and walked only two in 21 1/3 innings against Miami.

--1B Freddie Freeman was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained oblique suffered in Saturday’s game. Freeman was hitting .412 (7-for-17) with one home run and seven RBI, which tied him for teammate Justin Upton for third in the league. Freeman has been a durable player since breaking into the lineup; he played 157 games as a rookie in 2011 and 147 games in 2012. In a Tweet message, Freeman said, “Obviously I am upset, but I will use these 15 days to get fully healthy.”

--2B Blake DeWitt was added to the roster after his contract was purchased from AAA Gwinnett. DeWitt, primarily a second baseman, gives the team a left-handed bat to replace 1B Freddie Freeman. He was batting .333 (2-for-6) in two games for Gwinnett. Dewitt was signed in the offseason as a minor league free agent. He has spent time with the Dodgers and Cubs and hit .265 in 121 games or the Cubs in 2011.

--CF B.J. Upton hit leadoff for the second game and could be back there when SS Andrelton Simmons returns, possibly Monday, from a sprained thumb. Upton was 2-for-6 with three walks and a home run while hitting leadoff in Simmons’ absence. Manager Fredi Gonzalez said, “You’ll have to see where he hits.” Upton said he doesn’t care where hit bats in the order.

--C Evan Gattis was moved up to fourth in the batting order on Sunday. He hit eighth in his two previous starts. Manager Fredi Gonzalez said Friday, “He’s our second fourth-place hitter, that’s why he’s batting eighth.” Gattis went 0-for-3 with a walk on Sunday, but drew raves for his work behind the plate from RHP Tim Hudson.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Early on I didn’t feel great. I was able to settle in and for the most part zero in and make some pitches.” -- RHP Tim Hudson, who gave up a leadoff hit in Sunday’s victory but then retired 20 of the next 23 batters.

ROSTER REPORT

MEDICAL WATCH:

--1B Freddie Freeman (sprained oblique) was injured April 6 and placed on the 15-day DL on April 7. In a Tweet message, Freeman said, “Obviously I am upset, but I will use these 15 days to get fully healthy.”

--LHP Jonny Venters (left elbow sprain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 27. He will be shut down for four weeks and isn’t expected to pitch again until late May or early June. He had to leave a spring game against the Tigers on March 26, and he received a platelet-rich plasma injection from Dr. James Andrews on April 2 after an MRI was inconclusive.

--C Brian McCann (right shoulder surgery in October 2012) had a frayed labrum repaired and a cyst removed. He went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22. He returned to Florida on April 4 and will get in his swings as a designated hitter in extended spring training games. McCann will need a minor league rehab assignment after being cleared and isn’t expected to join the Braves until late April or early May. He took batting practice and caught bullpen sessions while in Atlanta for the first two games of the opening series with Philadelphia.

--RHP Brandon Beachy (Tommy John surgery in June 2012) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22. He hopes to be ready to return to the rotation by late June. He has had no setbacks, and he likely will begin a minor league rehab in late May.

--SS Paul Janish (left shoulder surgery in October 2012) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22. He will begin a minor league rehab around April 8. He didn’t get into any spring game action only because he wasn’t allowed to dive.

ROTATION:

RHP Tim Hudson

LHP Paul Maholm

RHP Kris Medlen

LHP Mike Minor

RHP Julio Teheran

BULLPEN:

RHP Craig Kimbrel (closer)

LHP Eric O’Flaherty

RHP Jordan Walden

LHP Luis Avilan

RHP Cory Gearrin

RHP Cristhian Martinez

RHP Anthony Vavaro

CATCHERS:

Gerald Laird

Paul Gattis

INFIELDERS:

2B Dan Uggla

SS Andrelton Simmons

1B/3B Chris Johnson

INF Juan Francisco

INF Ramiro Pena

2B Blake DeWitt

OUTFIELDERS:

LF Justin Upton

CF B.J. Upton

RF Jason Heyward

OF Reed Johnson

OF Jordan Schafer