Frelick displays 'it factor' with dazzling snag after 1st HR

May 15th, 2024

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers have suffered their fair share of injuries so far this season. Rhys Hoskins (strained right hamstring) is the latest member of the team to hit the injured list after tweaking his hamstring rounding first base in Monday’s loss.

In his absence, Milwaukee will need some of its young players to step up. In Tuesday’s 4-3 win over the Pirates, that player was -- who came up clutch both at the plate and in the field.

“It makes me smile because that's the kid that the Brewers drafted years ago in the first round,” manager Pat Murphy said. “That’s the kid. He's got the ‘it’ factor. I’m really happy for him.”

It has been a rough go for Frelick to begin the 2024 campaign, as he entered Tuesday’s game with just a .241 average and seven RBIs. However, with Hoskins now sidelined for the next two to four weeks, the 24-year-old will be needed more than ever in Milwaukee’s lineup. In the team’s first game without the slugger, he showed up in a big way.

In the second inning, Frelick got the scoring started and belted his first home run of the season. He connected with a slider low in the zone for a 365-foot homer. The two-run shot, which brought in Joey Ortiz, who doubled one batter earlier, was his first homer since Aug. 7 of last year.

Then, the outfielder drew an impressive walk in the sixth inning and stole second base. While the Brewers couldn’t capitalize on that leadoff walk, Frelick’s ability to fight back from an 0-2 count to a nine-pitch walk speaks to his potential at the plate in the big leagues.

“I've been working really hard every day making sure that I'm giving myself the best opportunity when I go up to the plate,” Frelick said. “I think it's been a timing and pitch selection [thing]. So, every day I've been doing the same thing. Getting into my routine and just really trusting in that and trusting that’s what is going to allow me to be successful in the field. So, I haven't changed anything crazy about it, but definitely just more tuned into it and it’s good to see some results.”

Frelick’s homer wasn’t the only highlight of the night for him as he made the play of the game in center field in the top of the eighth inning. The 24-year-old leaped to rob Pirates designated hitter Andrew McCutchen of an extra-base hit.

With McCutchen at the plate in a 2-2 count, the Pirates' slugger roped a ball 107.6 mph off the bat, which had a .770 expected batting average. But -- like Frelick did so many times in the Minors -- he went airborne and made a spectacular grab to keep the Brewers in front.

“It’s definitely a good one,” Frelick said. “It’s kind of cool getting it off [McCutchen] too, a guy I looked up to growing up.”

That diving play in the eighth was the second nice grab of the game for Frelick. The outfielder also made a lunging catch in the top of the second inning to rob Jared Triolo of a hit. It’s plays like those that make things easier for pitchers like Joe Ross.

“Sal made a couple of nice plays today,” Ross said after allowing two earned runs across five innings.” It’s always nice taking a little bit of weight off your shoulders, not trying to do too much on the mound.”

There’s no doubt that Frelick hasn’t gotten off to the best start in 2024. But he also has just 97 career games under his belt in the big leagues. It takes time for rookies to get adjusted at the professional level, and the Brewers' outfielder is no different.

There’s a reason why Milwaukee selected him in the first round of the 2021 MLB Draft and why he was ranked as the No. 30 overall prospect by MLB Pipeline before the 2023 season. It’s moments like Tuesday night that show just how talented and special Frelick could be for the Brewers in the coming years.

“Remember how young he is and then think about trying to play in the big leagues," Murphy said. “We've thrown a lot at him and we trust him. It’s only 40-something games in. We warmed him up a little bit in Spring Training and now he's kind of settling in.”