Brewers hope Freeman regains form after trade

Left-hander was acquired from Texas for cash on Tuesday night

April 6th, 2016
In 135 career appearances with the Cardinals and Rangers, left-hander Sam Freeman has a 3.23 ERA. (AP)

MILWAUKEE -- Sam Freeman posted a 2.74 ERA in 111 appearances over the past three seasons for the Cardinals and Rangers, yet found himself sitting at home on Opening Day. On Wednesday, Freeman finally had a team, arriving at Miller Park after the Brewers acquired him in a cash swap with Texas.

Was he surprised it took so long to find a baseball home?

"I'm not really surprised by anything that happens in this game," Freeman said. "So not really."

The Brewers designated Ariel Pena for assignment on Tuesday night to make room for 28-year-old Freeman, and Pena has the right to become a free agent. Freeman, meanwhile, gives the Brewers two left-handers in the bullpen with reverse splits, meaning both he and Chris Capuano have been more effective in their careers against right-handed hitters.

In Freeman's case, he has held right-handed hitters to a .513 OPS. Left-handed hitters have an .816 OPS against him.

"When it became clear that he might be on the outside looking in in that bullpen competition there [with the Rangers], we spent some time doing our homework on him," Brewers general manager David Stearns said. "He's a guy who has a really good arm, and he's had periods of pretty dominant success in the big leagues. He had a little bit of a tougher year last year.

"The key for him is throwing strikes. His stuff is plenty good enough. We believe he can do it."

The Rangers designated Freeman for assignment on March 29, but he stayed sharp by throwing at home in Prosper, Texas. He was a Minor League teammate in the St. Louis system with fellow Brewers reliever Michael Blazek.

"Crazy, crazy athlete," Blazek said. "He acts like a wide receiver, the way he moves around."

Freeman had a 3.05 ERA in a career-high 54 appearances for Texas last season, but set another career high with 5.9 walks per nine innings. Left-handers batted .281 against him with a .911 OPS and four home runs in 64 at-bats.

But he continued to throw hard for a left-hander, averaging 93.8 mph with his fastball. His go-to off-speed pitch is a changeup, which Freeman threw nearly 32 percent of the time in 2015 and explains his effectiveness against right-handed hitters.

Where he fits in the Brewers' bullpen mix remains to be seen.

"We'll just use him to get outs," manager Craig Counsell said.