CUMBERLAND — Freddie Freeman’s nagging elbow injury was a lot worse than anyone expected.
However, after undergoing surgery this offseason to remove bone spurs and loose impediments in his right elbow, the veteran first baseman said he is pain-free for the first time in nine years. He is also ready to lead the Braves to a third straight division title and a deep run in the playoffs.
However, finally getting to this point took some doing.
“We kind of knew what was going on in August,” Freeman said Saturday during Chop Fest at Truist Park. “I woke up one day and, for the third time that year, I had pain in my elbow. We got it X-rayed. Come to find out there was a huge hook that you could see on the X-ray. At least we knew what it was. We knew it was just a spur.”
Freeman hit .295 with 38 home runs, 121 RBIs and finished eighth in voting for the National League MVP award.
Just looking at the numbers, it was a typical Freeman-type season, but he hit only .264 with five extra-base over the final 22 games of the season.
Over the final 11 games of the season, that dropped to .111, and it did not get much better in the playoffs, with Freeman batting .200 (4-for-20) against the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Division Series.
“It got tough at the end. I didn’t really know why it was hurting every day,” Freeman said. “Usually, with spurs, you go in an out of pain. Around my birthday (on Sept. 12), it began hurting every single day. I wasn’t sleeping at night because I thought I was sleeping wrong, because I’d wake up and it would hurt.”
Freeman said an MRI after the playoffs showed one spur and two loose fragments in his elbow, but when the doctor performed the surgery, it became two bone spurs, three loose bodies and no room in his elbow joint. It had completely closed.
“Doc said, ‘I don’t know how you played with it,’” Freeman said. “I said, ‘Well, Doc, I didn’t play very well.’
“He said I probably wasn’t going to make it through (the playoffs), even if we won Game 5 (of the NLDS). I guess that second spur was about to crack and break off, so, come to find out, that’s why my elbow was hurting every day. It was a lot worse than we originally thought.”
Shortly after the season ended, Freeman went to New York and had the surgery. Now, three weeks before reporting for spring training in North Port, Florida, it is evident that Freeman is ready to get the season started.
“It’s been a long offseason,” he said. “I’m still doing rehab every day, but it’s more of a maintenance thing. I’ve been full-bore since about mid-December. I’ve been hitting, throwing, doing everything with no pain.”
“Everything went great. It is great — 100 percent. I’m ready to roll.”
Another reason Freeman is excited to get going is the new additions the Braves’ to the roster.
Since the end of the season, the team has signed starting pitcher Cole Hamels, veteran reliever Will Smith and power-hitting outfielder Marcell Ozuna.
Atlanta also signed former American League Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez to a non-guaranteed minor league contract, with an invite to spring training.
With the new additions, Freeman said it is time for the Braves to put last year behind them and prepare to make a run at World Series title.
“When you look at our team, it’s actually a pretty complete team. Our bullpen is strong, our starting staff is strong and our lineup is strong. That excites me,” Freeman said. “(General manager) Alex (Anthopoulos) has been busy this offseason. He’s spent a lot more money than a lot of people were expecting. It’s exciting to see. We’re going for it. We have a great team and we have a great chance to win the World Series this year.”