With the Oakland A’s set to begin a potentially decisive three-game series in Arlington with the Texas Rangers, Nate Freiman gets the start at first and bats fifth.
For the tall first baseman the starting assignment against Derek Holland will be his first since last Saturday. Getting close to a week between starts is nothing new for the 26-year-old, though. He’s made 45 of 47 starts against left-handers as the right-handing hitting half of the team’s inexpensive yet hugely productive first base platoon.
Freiman is hitting .314 (44-for-140) off lefties on the year, while in limited duty against right-handers he’s batting just .171 (7-for-41). When asked how to explain that success against lefties, he simply explained:
“That’s my job.”
Playing off the bench is not often a job entrusted to a young player. In particular, a rookie who had never played above Double-A before the start of the 2013 season.
Last year while playing for the San Antonio Missions, the Double-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres, Freiman hit .298 with 24 home runs, 105 RBI and a league leading 154 hits. For some reason, the Padres left Freiman unprotected in last winter’s Rule 5 Draft, and after briefly playing for the Houston Astros in spring training, Freiman ultimately landed with the A’s via waivers
“It’s a higher level of competition,” said Freiman of making the jump from the Texas League to the big leagues. “I think the important thing is to do what it was that got you here in the first place, and not try to change who you are. Whatever you did to get here by definition of you being here is what you need to do.”
It’s a brilliant approach, and one that has been highly successful for Freiman in 2013. But for all the talk of not changing, the first baseman has actually adapted quite a bit. At Duke, Freiman is the all-time home run leader, and as a senior he swatted 20 long balls. Then in parts of four minor leagues seasons he connected on another 71. For Oakland, though, Freiman has tallied just four long balls while spraying line drives to all fields.
“I’ve just been trying not to do to much. Trying not to get big, stay compact and hit the ball in play.”
For now, staying “compact” is working out quite nicely for the 6-foot-8-inch Freiman who’s hitting .305 (47-for-154) since May 1. However, eventually trying to get “big” might not be such a bad idea either.