Braves use caution, scratch Freeman (elbow)

February 25th, 2020

NORTH PORT, Fla. -- A week after arriving at Spring Training saying he felt better than he had in at least seven years, is once again dealing with right elbow discomfort.

But after scratching Freeman from Tuesday afternoon’s lineup against the Twins because of inflammation in that right elbow, the Braves described it as a precautionary measure necessitated by the effects of the All-Star first baseman’s increasing workload four months after undergoing surgery.

“He’s got a little irritation in his elbow,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s one of those things where his workload has been different than it was all winter. [The elbow has] felt good. But the doctor said it’s not an uncommon thing. You nip it in the bud. You’re glad it’s now instead of later.”

There’s a chance Freeman could return to action within the next few days. But if the Braves were to rest him for the remainder of the week, Freeman would still have more than three weeks to prepare for Opening Day.

“He doesn’t need a lot to get going,” Snitker said. “He’s one of those guys that starts out in spring and he’s locked in during the first week, and then he gets bored for the rest of Spring Training. I don’t think time is going to be a problem.”

Instead of setting a timetable for Freeman’s return, the Braves will just do whatever they can to help him enter this season feeling much different than he did at the end of last year. The 30-year-old veteran’s right elbow became a problem in September and he did not experience relief until Oct. 16, when two bone spurs and three fragments were removed from his elbow.

Freeman got through his normal offseason workouts without any problems. But as his workload has increased over the past week and he has been influenced by the added adrenaline of playing in two Grapefruit League games this past weekend, Freeman may have irritated some scar tissue.

“He’s doing more now on a consistent basis than he did prior [to Spring Training],” Snitker said. “I don’t think it’s anything to get alarmed about.”

Freeman’s elbow has occasionally bothered him over the past few years, but the discomfort started to increase in August. When an X-ray showed the spur, the hope was that the discomfort would subside and eventually disappear like it had so often in the past. But it proved to be manageable only until Sept. 12, when Freeman awoke in his Philadelphia hotel room and realized he could not raise his arm to wash his hair.

Through Sept. 11, Freeman ranked sixth in the National League with a .973 OPS and was tied for fifth with 38 home runs. He went 4-for-36 with 11 strikeouts and only one extra-base hit (a double) over the remainder of the regular season. Despite resting for most of the regular season’s final week, he tasted even greater disappointment while going 4-for-20 with two extra-base hits (a double and a homer) during the NL Division Series.