David Freese gets to Angels camp with resculpted body
David Freese reported to spring training Saturday with a new physique and a quiet confidence.
The former is the result of a strength-and-conditioning program that helped the Angels third baseman “redistribute” the 220 pounds on his 6-foot-2 frame, adding muscle and losing fat. The latter is tougher to quantify.
“I can’t explain it,” Freese, 31, said. “I just know that now, things are different. I’m excited to be back here and to get to work. I’m glad I’m an Angel. They’re going to be glad I’m still an Angel. I’m confident of that.”
There was speculation the Angels might trade Freese or not tender him a contract after a 2014 in which Freese hit .260 with 10 home runs and 55 runs batted in. Then in a Jan. 8 trade with Atlanta, the Angels acquired double-A third baseman Kyle Kubitza, a prospect who is in line to replace Freese in 2016.
That could create a cloud of uncertainty for a well-compensated and seemingly expendable veteran going into his free-agent year, but Freese, who signed for $6.425 million in late January, enters 2015 with a clear head.
“I’m an Angel,” said Freese, the World Series most valuable player for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011. “Seven months from now is so far away. I’m not even thinking about being a free agent. There’s so much I have to prepare for and accomplish before that thought even crosses my mind.”
Freese, who underwent surgery in October to remove a bone spur from his left ankle, sees Kubitza, 24, as an asset, not a threat.
“To get to the postseason, you need talent in the minor leagues,” Freese said. “Guys get hurt, they get sent down, and when you have quality people in the minor leagues, it helps you win games.”
The Angels are counting on Freese to help ease the loss of second baseman and September cleanup batter Howie Kendrick, who was traded to the Dodgers in December.
To do so, Freese must produce more like the player who hit .281 with eight home runs and 41 RBIs over the final four months of 2014, not the one who hit .203 with two home runs and 14 RBIs and sat out 16 games because of a broken finger in the first two months.
With Josh Hamilton (right shoulder surgery) opening the season on the disabled list and Manager Mike Scioscia leaning toward keeping Mike Trout and Albert Pujols in the second and third spots in the batting order, Freese could hit cleanup.
“Let’s do it,” Freese said. “I’m OK with that.”
Scioscia said he wants Freese at the plate in run-producing situations “because he’s had some terrific runs with guys in scoring position. As he got into the season, you really saw the at-bats improve and you saw everything go the right way.”
Playing the heavy
Jered Weaver, the 6-7 right-hander whose weight dipped to as low as 199 pounds last season, reported to camp at 221 pounds. Though the average velocity of his fastball fell to 86.3 mph last season, Weaver’s weight gain was motivated by endurance, not speed.
“Numbers-wise, it was all right,” Weaver said of his 18-9 record and 3.59earned-run average last season. “But me being ultracompetitive, I want to get deeper in games. The bullpen helped me a lot last year. I just want to gain some strength.”
Weaver, 32, averaged a little more than six innings per start in 2014. He has thrown one complete game in the last two seasons after throwing seven in 2011 and 2012.
“I don’t care about velocity, I just want to be stronger for the whole nine innings,” Weaver said. “If velocity comes along, so be it. I think I’ve shown I can pitch from 83-93 mph.”
Not so fast
Garrett Richards, who spent the off-season rehabilitating from left knee surgery, said his goal “since Day One” has been to return for the start of the regular season, but the Angels will not rush the hard-throwing right-hander.
“Garrett has thrown a few bullpens, but he’s still a ways away,” Scioscia said. “There are a lot of hurdles he’s going to have to clear. It might happen in a month, it might happen in six weeks. Nobody really knows.”
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