As Freddie Freeman goes, so will go the Atlanta Braves this season. That's may be a slight exaggeration, but with his repaired elbow still barking, it's something to take seriously.
It was just yesterday that columnist Dave O'Brien wrote in the TheAthletic (paywalled) about the detailed efforts that the Atlanta Braves and first baseman Freddie Freeman were making in 2019 - just to keep him on the field.
In that piece, O'Brien talked about the regimen Freeman was undertaking. Shots. Pills. Every game day. It was obviously a heroic effort to get Freeman back on the field, and one that may not really have been entirely healthy.
But then came the end of the season in October and the surgery.
The team announced Friday that Freeman underwent the procedure in New York. Dr. David Altchek cleaned out the entire right elbow joint, removing three fragmented loose bodies and cleaning up numerous bone spur formations that had developed in the slugger's elbow.
So with that done, all's well... right? After all, there was a marked change in Freeman's off-season preparations, right?
So now: no drugs... no pain... this should be the end of it. Good news.
Well... maybe not
Tuesday's Grapefruit League tilt against the Twins had Freeman in the lineup again... but as game time approached, things changed.
"Right elbow inflammation". So how could this be - particularly since he's been swinging bats regularly since sometime in December, right?
Bat swings and general cage work are just one drill that the players go through at this time of the year, though it's probably the one that Freeman had been doing the most work on before getting to North Port.
There is at least one other possible cause for an elbow ailment. Sliding.
The second photo Cody attached shows Freddie Freeman with a head-first/arms-first slide.
Yes - under normal circumstances, this drill is intended to be a relatively low-impact/low-risk endeavor, but it would impart a force on the arm that's different from the motion and impact of a batting swing.
We are already hearing the disclaimers about this injury - in truth, that's what it is - that it's "nothing":
There are three possibilities, and the Atlanta Braves need to be prepared for all of them:
- It's truly nothing and he'll be fine in a few days. Maybe it really was the sliding or something else he hadn't done in previous workouts? Maybe things were 'ramped up' too quickly after that October procedure?
- It's a signal that perhaps the 'cleanup' surgery didn't get everything.
- It's a new injury that needs to be addressed.
There's no way to properly handicap the odds on the three outcomes from afar, but one hopes that we're looking at something on the order of 80%, 15%, 5% respectively.
But far from being dismissive of this new flare-up, we need to at least acknowledge just how bad things were for Freeman before the end of the 2019 campaign: people can get addicted to pain killers and he obviously had a big problem that truly needed to be fixed.
So in addition to hoping that today's problem isn't serious, let's also hope that it doesn't take some cataclysmic event to pull Freeman off the diamond before he gets help for some future malady.
It's about your health, man. The team? We'll manage.