GLENDALE, Ariz. -- During the recruitment of Freddie Freeman, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts went through the exercise many times. He played with different lineup combinations. They all looked good to him. They all included Freeman near the top of the order.
For the first time since the first baseman signed a six-year, $162 million deal, Roberts was able to write down Freeman’s name in the lineup -- for real this time. In a 10-8 loss to the Reds on Tuesday, Freeman hit third and played first base, something the Dodgers hope to have every day this season.
“It was nice to get back out there,” Freeman said. “Things felt like a normal ballgame getting in between the lines. The fans were awesome, made me feel at home, so this was a good day.”
Playing in a game was about the first normal thing Freeman has done over the last week. After spending 12 seasons with the Braves, Freeman has been put through a crash course over the last few days, from relying on a GPS for directions to learning a new set of teammates and coaches.
The latest unusual event happened on Tuesday, as he put on a blue Dodgers uniform opposed to a red Braves jersey. When he stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the first inning, he also heard something he hadn’t heard before from Dodgers fans.
“Freddie! Freddie!” chanted the crowd at Camelback Ranch, which included some family and friends.
“It’s a new chapter and the fans chanting my name was very nice,” Freeman said. “Usually Dodger fans aren't chanting my name over the last 12 years, so that was nice.”
In two at-bats, Freeman quickly showed why he’s one of the best hitters in the game and was the Dodgers’ top target this past offseason. Freeman singled in his first at-bat, slapping an opposite-field liner to left field. His next time up, Freeman worked an eight-pitch at-bat before grounding into a fielder’s choice. He was on schedule to take a third at-bat, but the inning ended before his turn was due up.
“I was able to get four defensive innings, that was nice,” Freeman said. “I’ve been getting as much work as I can on the back fields, but nothing’s like a game. So it was nice to get a couple of ABs.”
Despite a late start to his Spring Training, Freeman said he’s on track to be ready to go before Opening Day. He’s not sure just how many games he’ll play this spring, but he’ll lobby to play in as many as he can.
“I like to play,” Freeman said. “I only got two weeks, so I got to get in there.”
Buehler’s strong tuneup
Despite pitching a career-high 207 2/3 innings last season, Dodgers ace Walker Buehler showed no signs of slowing down in his first Cactus League start on Tuesday. Buehler was originally scheduled to pitch three or four innings, but he was efficient, needing just 53 pitches to get through 4 2/3 innings of work. He struck out five.
“That was probably more innings than I’ve thrown in Spring Training ever in one day,” Buehler joked. “But we gotta get ready for the first time and work through some things. Felt a little bit better today. Things are good.”
Buehler, who made 33 starts in the regular season and pitched on short rest twice during the postseason, said he began his buildup a little later than usual this winter, but he came into camp having already thrown four live batting practice sessions.
“I mentioned to somebody else that the COVID year kind of helps in terms of staying ready but not too ready,” Buehler said. “Felt like I didn’t come in ready enough in that one and definitely more built up now than I was then. So that was kind of a nice little trainer course for this.”
Following his dominant season in 2021, the Dodgers will continue to rely on Buehler to be the team’s ace.
The Dodgers agreed to terms with all three of their arbitration-eligible players before Tuesday’s deadline.
Los Angeles and star shortstop Trea Turner agreed to a one-year, $21 million deal, sources told MLB.com. Turner, who is a free agent at the end of the season, will be the team’s starting shortstop following Corey Seager’s departure.
Left-hander Julio Urías also avoided arbitration, agreeing to a one-year, $8 million deal. Urías has one more year of arbitration before becoming a free agent following the 2023 season. The left-hander was the lone 20-game winner in the Majors in 2021.
Caleb Ferguson, who missed the 2021 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, and the Dodgers agreed to a one-year deal worth $762,500.