Freeman reports; Camargo's challenge

March 1st, 2021

Putting an end to an offseason during which he won his first National League MVP Award and added two sons to his family, reported to Braves camp on Monday morning and immediately made his presence felt. 

"There have been a lot of changes in his life for the better," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "He's excited." 

Freeman was excused from the first week of camp to care for his wife, Chelsea, who gave birth to the couple's third son, Maximus Turner, on Feb. 14. A surrogate gave birth to the couple's second child, Brandon John, in December.

Freeman's 4-year-old son Charlie was present when his dad flew to Florida on Friday. The 30-year-old first baseman did his COVID-19 intake testing on Saturday and was cleared to report to camp on Monday.

After Freeman works out at the Braves' Spring Training facility over the next couple days, the club will determine when he will begin playing in games.

Even if Freeman misses most of this first week of the Grapefruit League season, he'll still have three-plus weeks to prepare for Opening Day. That's significantly more time than Freenab had last year, when he missed all but five days of Summer Camp because of COVID-19 and still won the NL MVP Award.

"Honestly, I haven't had a chance to sit down to see what his thinking is," Snitker said, "but I know he'll have a pretty good idea of how he wants to go and what he's been doing. That's the least of our worries, wondering if he'll have enough time. He'll have plenty of time to get where he needs to be."

Camargo's challenge
has long been lauded for his defensive skills. But as he prepares to serve as a utility player this year, there's reason to remember the defensive struggles he had when he was forced to be the everyday shortstop after was placed on the injured list during the second half of the 2019 season with a bruised right foot.

Camargo was an effective everyday third baseman in 2018, but he declined after he was forced to a backup role when Josh Donaldson arrived in '19. Camargo's weight gain that year limited his range as a shortstop. He filled in for Swanson for a few weeks before the club was forced to account for his defensive decline by signing Adeiny Hechavarria.

Camargo is the only member of the 40-man roster who seems fit to serve as the backup shortstop. The best non-roster candidate is Ehire Adrianza, who is an above-average defender who produced a .691 OPS over the past three seasons for the Twins.

If the Braves can confidently rely on Camargo as their backup shortstop, they would have a roster spot available to potentially satisfy other bench needs.

"It's very important because of the way you're looking at our team being structured," Snitker said. "We're going to give him some good looks at shortstop. We know he can play third and second. I think once guys get settled in at this level, it enhances their ability to go other places on the diamond."

Key lefties debut
Left-handed relievers and both tossed a scoreless inning while debuting in the Braves' 5-3 win over the Red Sox on Monday in Fort Myers, Fla. Minter pitched around three consecutive singles in the fifth when he got Josh Ockimey to line into a double play.

This was Minter's first outing since he recorded seven strikeouts over three innings while making the first start of his professional career in Game 5 of last year's NL Championship Series. His impressive outing as an opener that night highlighted a rebound season during which the former closer posted a 0.83 ERA over 21 2/3 innings (22 appearances).

Matzek induced a pair of groundouts as he breezed through a perfect sixth. The 30-year-old southpaw produced a 2.79 ERA over 21 appearances last year. He was pitching in the Majors for the first time since developing the yips while with the Rockies in 2015.

Up next
will make his spring season debut when the Braves host the Twins on Tuesday afternoon at CoolToday Park. Anderson will attempt to extend the success he had last year, when he opened his postseason career with 17 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings. First pitch is set for 1:05 p.m. ET.