Freeman had elbow surgery, Elías pitching in Fredericksburg

Sam Freeman, one of the early bright spots in the Nationals bullpen during this unusual season, had Tommy John surgery one month ago, manager Davey Martinez confirmed today.

Freeman last pitched Aug. 12 in New York, when he motioned for a trainer after feeling a “pop” in his left elbow. He was immediately removed from the game, and though the club’s initial diagnosis was a flexor strain in his forearm, Martinez admitted at the time he was worried the injury was more serious.

It was. An MRI revealed a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow. Freeman underwent surgery to replace the ligament Aug. 19, a procedure the Nationals had not previously announced until Martinez was asked today for an update on the lefty.

Thumbnail image for Martinez-Serious-Hoodie-WS-G4-Sidebar.jpg“I heard it went well and he’s recovering,” Martinez said during his Zoom session with reporters prior to tonight’s game in Miami. “Obviously, it takes a while for him to recover, but he’s doing well.”

A non-roster invitee to spring training and again to summer training, Freeman pitched his way onto the Nationals’ opening day roster. And the 33-year-old pitched well in the early portion of the season, allowing just one run on two hits in seven appearances out of the bullpen.

During a nine-year career that includes 271 appearances with the Cardinals, Rangers, Brewers, Braves, Angels and Nationals, Freeman made only one previous stint on the injured list: He missed three weeks in 2018 with left shoulder inflammation. But prior to making his major league debut for St. Louis, Freeman had Tommy John surgery, missing the entire 2010 season.

Now he’ll attempt to join the short list of pitchers that have returned to the big leagues after a second Tommy John surgery, a list that does include Nats closer Daniel Hudson.

“I told him he’s in a tough situation, because he is kind of older,” Martinez said. “But I have seen guys come back. Just keep your head up, keep plugging away, get through your rehab and see where you’re at. He’s such an unbelievable person. One of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. He’s been through a lot in his career. He was so happy that he was able to come back and get in the big leagues again. It’s unfortunate that he got hurt.”

Roenis Elías, another left-hander that was supposed to hold a prominent role in the Nationals bullpen this season, has not made it back from his flexor strain. Elías, though, has been pitching at the club’s alternate training site in Fredericksburg and in recent days has been facing live hitters.

It doesn’t appear the Nats have plans to activate Elías before the end of the season; he has yet to show he can pitch back-to-back days. The 32-year-old is set to enter his third and final season of arbitration eligibility this winter. Having made only four appearances for the Nationals since they acquired him on July 31, 2019, and with a 2021 salary that figures to approach $2 million, Elías could be a candidate to be non-tendered during the offseason.

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