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Braves' Freeman used painkillers to play through 2019 elbow injury

Hunter Martin / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman put himself through a lot to stay on the field in 2019, including playing through a late-season elbow injury that required offseason surgery.

Freeman had two bone spurs and three fragments removed from his right elbow in October. He admitted the elbow caused him so much pain toward the end of last season that he needed a cortisone shot and was taking two painkillers (an undisclosed drug given to him by Braves head trainer George Poulis) before almost every game for six weeks.

"If I wasn't taking the really hard pain pills, I was taking as many extra strength Tylenols as I could," he told Jeff Schultz of The Athletic.

Freeman's elbow had bothered him occasionally over the past few years, but his discomfort increased in August. X-rays confirmed the presence of the spurs, but there was hope his pain would subside and eventually disappear as it had in the past.

By mid-September, however, the pain was so bad that Freeman couldn't even wash his hair in the shower.

"It was mentally exhausting for me, but it was even worse for my wife," he said. "I thought maybe I was just sleeping wrong. Was my arm in a bad spot? It turned into sleeping only a couple of hours. Obviously, my elbow hurt, but (the stress) was more just trying to figure out ways to hurt less."

The 30-year-old said he avoided taking the pain pills too close to the start of a game because they'd blur his vision. He added he was never worried about any kind of addiction.

"No. There were some days I would try to go without it," he said. "I would go in for (bat) flips before the game, and I'd swing, and the bat would fall out of my hand. That's when I would sprint to the training room and go, 'George, give me the pills - I need it.' And that would be 10 minutes before the game so my vision would be going a little bit.

"I was just trying to gut it out."

Freeman wound up posting his worst numbers of 2019 while playing through pain down the stretch, and he hit just .200/.273/.400 in a National League Division Series loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Discomfort in Freeman's elbow resurfaced Tuesday, and he was scratched from the Braves' spring lineup against the Minnesota Twins. It was a precautionary move, Braves manager Brian Snitker told's Mark Bowman.

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