Freddie Freeman discusses offseason, Braves’ 2021 outlook

Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman rejoined the team Monday and met with reporters for the first time this season Tuesday. Freeman was a late arrival to camp after his wife, Chelsea, announced the birth of their third son Feb. 21.

“It was a pretty special offseason all the way around in baseball and personal life,” Freeman said. “It started off really well. I got a few accolades this year. That was nice. But the cherry on top for me was getting two more boys to the family. It’s been quite hectic in the Freeman household, but we’re taking it in stride. We’re having a lot of fun.

“It’s probably the hardest spring for me. I’m not going to see Chelsea or the two boys until after the first (regular season) road trip, so it’s going to be a tough one for me. But I’ve got Charlie (first-born son) here, and I’m surrounded by all the boys. I’ve got my dad, grandfather, my cousin, my brother and Charlie here, so hopefully we can get through it together. It’s been a fun, eventful offseason, and it’s everything I’ve ever wanted.”

Freeman covered more about his offseason and the team’s 2021 outlook:

- Freeman and his wife tried over “multiple years” to have another child, but it just wasn’t happening, he said. They chose the surrogate route, and then nine days before the embryo transfer, Chelsea told Freddie she was pregnant.

“I was just shocked,” he said. “It was not something we expected at all, but it’s everything you want and more. It’s such a crazy situation to wrap your mind around it. But when you’re in it, and both boys are here, it’s the best thing that could’ve happened.”

Chelsea gave birth to Brandon, who’s named after her grandfather, on Dec. 30. Maximus Turner, named after where Freeman made his MLB debut at Turner Field, was born Feb. 14.

“We’re having a blast,” he said. “They’re great babies. It’s going to be different to tell the story when they’re a little bit older, ‘Yeah, I’m only six weeks younger than my other brother.’ That’ll be a story to tell. But it’s our story, and it’s a beautiful story.”

- Freeman’s personal on-field goals haven’t changed. Staying healthy is priority No. 1. He still wants to play all 162 games, even though he expects manager Brian Snitker to give him some rest days.

- “I have a coach that I played with now,” Freeman said, referencing hitting consultant Chipper Jones. Freeman was ecstatic to see Jones join the Braves’ coaching staff, citing his willingness to share his knowledge with every player.

“He can talk for an hour, but in that one hour, if you take that one thing he says and you apply it to your game, that’s all you need,” Freeman said. “He’s talked to me so much over the years, and I’ve applied the stay on the white-line plane with your hands. That changed everything for me. There’s so much more. That might not work for someone else, but he knows so much and can help. It’s not about trying to take in everything Chipper says, but trying to take those little things that can help you improve. That’s what he’s here for. He’s going to give you everything he knows and it’s up to you to take what you need. And I took the hand playing on the white line of the batter’s box and that’s changed everything for me.

“That’s the thing. When you know so much and you have the knowledge and accolades that he has, I mean, the guy hit over .300 from both sides of the plate. It’s amazing when you think about what he did in his career. When you have him every single day, where you can just walk up to him and talk to him, it’s going to make every single guy better. It’s going to change careers. It changed mine after 2012. It changed everything for me.”

- It was pivotal that the Braves retained slugger Marcell Ozuna, who Freeman said would’ve been difficult to replace. He also spoke glowingly of Ozuna’s impact in the clubhouse and his ability to keep everybody loose.

“That was the piece all offseason that was going to keep us where we needed to be, where we can pick up right where we left off,” Freeman said. “He fit in perfectly. We had a lot of fun last year. He had an amazing year, an unbelievable year. When you have that right-handed thump sitting in the middle of your lineup, and now you’re going to have a healthy Ronald (Acuna), healthy Ozzie (Albies), it just strengthens and deepens that lineup. Getting Marcell back was huge. It’s a tough lineup to navigate.”

- In what’s become an annual tradition, Freeman echoed Bryce Harper’s recent comment and again declared the NL East the toughest division in baseball.

“I’ve said the last few years that the NL East was the hardest, but I was biased because I’m in the NL East,” Freeman said. “There’s no biases anymore. It’s hands down the hardest division. And we’re AL East interleague again, so you have the NL East and AL East going at it again like last year. It’s fun. We love the competition. But it’s going to be a juggernaut. It’s going to be a bloodbath from opening day through the end. That’s what it’s all about as a competitor. If you’re going to win this division this year, you’re going to have to be on your A-game all 162.”

Tuesday’s game:

The Braves defeated the Twins 6-0 in their exhibition home opener Tuesday in North Port, Fla. Catcher Travis d’Arnaud belted a two-run homer in his first at-bat of spring, while starter Ian Anderson scattered three hits over his two innings of work. Outfielder Ender Inciarte and third baseman Austin Riley each went 2-for-3. Big lefty prospect Kyle Muller, who had command problems in his two appearances last spring, allowed two hits and struck out three in his 1-2/3 innings. Jacob Webb, who’s likely to be part of the Braves’ opening-day bullpen, struck out two in a clean seventh inning.