ATLANTA — Freddie Freeman doesn't know if he has time to be ready for the Atlanta Braves' season opener.
After a scary journey while ill with COVID-19, the veteran first baseman and slugger is grateful to even have a chance.
On Saturday, the four-time National League All-Star revealed he had a high temperature of 104.5 degrees early in his time with the disease caused by the novel coronavirus — and that he prayed for his life.
"I said a little prayer that night," Freeman said in a video conference call. "I've never been that hot before. My body was really, really hot. I said 'Please don't take me' because I wasn't ready."
Freeman said the fever was down to 101 the next morning and broke two days later. He said Saturday was his ninth consecutive day without symptoms, which also included body aches, chills and a temporary loss of his senses of taste and smell. He said two other members of his household, his wife and aunt, are recovering after positive tests.
"I feel great," he said. "I only lost one pound. I didn't lose any strength."
Freeman reported to Truist Park for a workout Friday only an hour or so after receiving his second negative test for the coronavirus, a step that granted him medical clearance to play.
The 30-year-old's appreciation of being back with the team was obvious. The Braves posted video on their Twitter account of Freeman carrying his bat and glove and saying "this is wonderful" as he walked out of the dugout and looked out at the field on Friday.
"I feel like I'm a kid in a candy store again," he said Saturday. "You forget sometimes how much you love this game. I did truly miss it. I was so excited when I got to the yard."
The Braves are thrilled Freeman is back.
"Obviously when you get your best player back, it's a positive thing and a good thing," manager Brian Snitker said. "I'm excited for him and us, too."
Freeman set career highs with 38 home runs and 121 RBIs last season to help Atlanta win its second straight NL East Division title. He placed fourth in the NL MVP voting in 2018.
His return was well timed. Free agent outfielder Yasiel Puig tested positive for the coronavirus after agreeing to sign with Atlanta this past week, and the positive test voided the deal.
Puig had been seen as a replacement for Nick Markakis, a veteran outfielder and team leader who opted out of the season after talking on the telephone with Freeman.
"Unfortunately that was my worst day," Freeman said, adding he didn't try to influence the decision by Markakis when the two spoke again days later.
"He just wasn't into it, and I totally, totally get it," Freeman said.
Snitker plans to give Freeman as many at-bats as possible in intrasquad games as well as in exhibitions Tuesday and Wednesday against the Miami Marlins.
Asked what he's looking to see from Freeman, Snitker said: "I don't think I have to look for anything. If he's out there, he's going to be ready."
Freeman said his legs were sore Saturday after his workout Friday. The Braves open the season on the road Friday against the New York Mets.
Freeman was one of four Atlanta players who tested positive at the start of summer camp. Right-handed pitcher Touki Toussaint, who had no symptoms, also returned Friday. Left-handed reliever Will Smith and infielder Pete Kozma have not returned.
Major League Baseball halted spring training in mid-March, part of a shutdown of sports that spread across the globe during the pandemic, but the 2020 season is set to finally start Thursday evening when the Washington Nationals, the reigning World Series champions, host the New York Yankees. The Los Angeles Dodgers host the San Francisco Giants later that night, and the rest of the majors' teams get going the next day.
Freeman wore a face mask during his video interview and said he'll continue to take precautions.
"It's very serious," he said, adding that his family "did everything right" to avoid the disease. "It still somehow got to me."