Braves' Freeman 'day-to-day' with elbow spur

WASHINGTON -- The Atlanta Braves are playing it safe with Freddie Freeman.

The All-Star first baseman exited Friday night's game against the Washington Nationals in the middle of the fourth inning, a move the team called a precaution because Freeman was experiencing elbow soreness. He was replaced by Charlie Culberson.

After the game, Freeman said he has dealt with a spur for years and it was tweaked when he made a backhand defensive play on a ground ball in the bottom of the third. He called himself day-to-day and said he can be expected to return to the lineup Saturday or Sunday.

"I jammed my elbow on that play, so it just kind of flared up," Freeman said. "I've had it, I've felt it, I've dealt with it, I've played through it. Just today, it was a little bit more than I expected. Now it's calmed completely down, so I'm hoping that I'll wake up and be able to play tomorrow. I got some treatment, did some really good stuff. Everything calmed down around it. It's just a sharp spur, and sometimes you can't control having it jam into something like that. My elbow just went into a weird spot when I made that backhand play. When I went for the backhand, I braced myself and that's when it got me.

"I've always been able to play through it and deal with it the last couple of years. It's never affected me, and I don't anticipate this affecting me at all. I'm hoping to be in there tomorrow. We'll see how it is. If not, maybe Sunday. It's day-to-day. So just expect me to probably be in there tomorrow."

Freeman started the series opener against Washington and went 0-for-2 in his first two at-bats. In the top of the first, he flied out to right field against Nats ace Max Scherzer. In the top of the third, he struck out swinging.

The Braves won Friday's game 5-0 to extend their lead atop the National League East to 9½ games ahead of second-place Washington.

Braves manager Brad Snitker echoed Freeman's optimism regarding playing on Saturday.

"He'd been battling some spurs, so it kicked him a little bit. We just wanted to make sure he's OK. He's feeling good now, and hopefully he wakes up tomorrow morning and is good and can play. We'll just wait and see. The guy's a gamer," Snitker said.

Freeman, who turned 30 years old on Thursday, entered Friday's action hitting .303 with 38 home runs, and was tied for the major league lead with 117 RBIs. He has played in all but one of the Braves' 148 contests this year. Last season, he was one of five MLB players who appeared in 162 games. In 2017, he missed six weeks with a fractured wrist, but he has never been on the injured list due to elbow problems.

Freeman's early exit comes on the same day that Atlanta got Nick Markakis back. The veteran outfielder, who missed 43 games with a fractured wrist, went 2-for-4 with a double, a run and a sacrifice fly in his return.