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Freeman returns: Is Opening Day Possible?

by Mark Bowman –

Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves [Photo by]

Freddie Freeman’s status for Opening Day went from doubtful to probable within the past 24 hours.

Freeman showed up at Truist Park for a light workout after being cleared to rejoin the Braves on Friday morning. The All-Star first baseman received clearance after receiving two negative tests for COVID-19 at least 24 hours apart.

This was a much-anticipated development for Freeman, who first tested positive on July 3 but has not shown any symptoms since July 5. He received the news of his first negative test late on Thursday night, then got the results of the second negative test Friday morning and immediately began planning to work out at the field, despite the Braves having an off-day.

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Freeman has been hitting and working out at his suburban Atlanta home over the past week. The question is if the remaining five days of Summer Camp will be enough for him to be ready Opening Day on July 24 against the Mets at Citi Field?

“Right now, we’ll see how he feels the next few days,” Braves president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos said. “We’ll have to take it day by day. We’ve got a week until Opening Day. He says he’s been hitting. You can never put it past him.”

Freeman could tally as many plate appearances as he desires while the Braves play intrasquad games over the next three days. He can then gather a few more when the Marlins come to Atlanta for exhibition games on Tuesday and Wednesday.

If Freeman is indeed ready for the start of the season, the Braves no longer have to think about the possibility of using Austin Riley as their primary first baseman. Riley could then begin the season as Atlanta’s starting third baseman.

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News of Freeman gaining clearance occurred around the same time Yasiel Puig used Instagram to reveal he had tested positive for COVID-19. Consequently, the outfielder will not be joining the Braves. The two parties negotiated a deal, but an agreement always hinged on the results of the COVID test.

Right-hander Touki Toussaint was also cleared to rejoin the club. Toussaint and All-Star reliever Will Smith were both asymptomatic, but Smith still has not received the negative results needed to return.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for since 2001.

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