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Freddie Freeman begins ‘new chapter’ in his first spring training game with Dodgers

Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman runs to second base Tuesday against the Cincinnati Reds in Phoenix.
Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman runs to second base Tuesday during a spring training game against the Cincinnati Reds in Phoenix.
(Norm Hall / Getty Images)

Tuesday wasn’t the first time Dave Roberts wrote Freddie Freeman’s name into a lineup card.

“I’ve run that exercise out many times,” the Dodgers manager said with a grin.

But it was the first time Freeman took the field for the team, making his spring debut in the Dodgers’ 10-8 loss against the Cincinnati Reds at Camelback Ranch.

Freeman went one for two while batting third — Roberts said he envisions Freeman batting either second or third this season — and slapped a first-inning single the other way to left field after being serenaded with chants of “Freddie! Freddie!” by the crowd.

“Usually Dodger fans aren’t chanting my name,” joked Freeman, the former Atlanta Braves star who finalized a six-year, $162-million contract with the Dodgers on Friday. “It was nice to get back out there.”

Freeman had eight family members in attendance during the game and said many more will be driving out from Southern California to see the Orange County native this weekend.

“Easy drive now to get to spring training,” he said.

It’s been one of the many changes over the last week for Freeman, who laughed when later asked whether anything has felt normal while adjusting to his new team.

The Dodgers sign outfielder Kevin Pillar to a minor league contract with an invitation to big league camp. He reportedly can earn $2.5 million this season.

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“To be honest, no,” he said. “It’s my first Arizona spring training. So there’s trying to learn how to get to the field every day without my GPS. Everything’s just new. But what a great organization. They’ve been very welcoming and let me get my bearings here and it’s been a great five days so far.”

Roberts believes Freeman, who had previously spent his entire professional career with the Braves after being drafted out of Orange El Modena High in 2007, is getting comfortable with his new surroundings, too.

“I do believe there’s a heavy heart in there, a lot of emotions [when] you’re with a team for 15 years,” Roberts said. “I think he’s still trying to sift through those emotions. But I know he’s happy to be here. The guys are happy. And each day gets a little bit easier for him.”

With most of his first-week obligations out of the way, Freeman’s attention is turning toward the start of the season. He said he doesn’t feel his game is behind right now, despite the delayed start to spring training. He also wants to play frequently over the rest of spring camp after getting in four innings on Tuesday.

“I’ve been getting as much work as I can on the back fields but nothing’s like a game,” said Freeman, who beat out a potential double-play grounder in his second at-bat. “So it was nice to get a couple of ABs.”

After getting dressed and walking out of the clubhouse following his exit from the game, Freeman returned to the vast blue-colored room accompanied by his 5-year-old son, Charlie, showing his eldest son around his dad’s new home.

“This was a good day,” Freeman said, adding: “It’s a new chapter.”

Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler works against the Atlanta Braves in the 2021 playoffs.
Walker Buehler delivers a pitch for the Dodgers during the 2021 National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Buehler building up

Walker Buehler didn’t have a normal first start of the spring.

Instead of a typical brief Cactus League debut, Buehler threw 53 pitches in a sharp 4 ⅔-innings outing, displaying a level of stamina many other pitchers are still trying to build up to following the league’s offseason lockout.

“That was probably more innings than I’ve thrown in spring training ever in one day,” said Buehler, who struck out five and gave up two runs on five hits. “But we gotta get ready for the first week and work through some things.”

It was a promising first step for Buehler, who threw a career-high 207 ⅔ innings last season while making a major league-most 33 starts. He also made four postseason starts, including two on short rest for the first time in his career.

Following the year, Buehler said he “took a little bit longer off” before beginning his preparation for this season in mid-December.

“I think probably the first time I moved it was on my honeymoon,” said Buehler, who got married in December. “I threw some weighted balls in St. Lucia and got back after it once we got home.”

During the lockout, however, Buehler began to build up. He came to Phoenix in February to train at a performance center, and started facing hitters shortly after. Buehler is on track to be stretched out as much as he normally would to begin a season.

“At least for me, I don’t want to throw three or four innings,” he said. “I’d like to be able to make a full start.”

Looking at the career of the best closer in Dodgers history, Kenley Jansen.

Short hops

The Dodgers signed veteran outfielder Kevin Pillar on Tuesday to a minor league deal (with a big league spring training invitation) that will reportedly be worth $2.5 million if he makes the MLB team. … The Dodgers will have no arbitration hearings this year, after agreeing to one-year contracts with Trea Turner for $21 million, Julio Urías for $8 million and Caleb Ferguson for $762,500, according to people with knowledge of the situation. … Infielder Hanser Alberto was at Dodgers camp Tuesday, though his signing has yet to be officially announced. Alberto said on Twitter this week he had been delayed because of visa issues.


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