By Rob Biertempfel
FORT MYERS, Fla. — David Freese played in nine games (one start) at first base over the first seven seasons of his big league career. Last year with the Pirates, Freese played first base in 58 games, including 34 starts. He made only three errors in 378 chances at what for him was essentially a new position.
“He’s got some gifted skills,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “When he made the move over to first base from spring training into last season, that might be the quickest I’ve seen a guy go over there and look like he’d played a lot of first base when in reality he had minimal experience. The range is legit and I think it’s the work as much as anything. First-step quickness. Anticipation. He’ll leave his feet and go horizontal for a ball at the drop of a hat. He’s fun to watch.”
Given the uncertainty that surrounds Jung Ho Kang, Freese will start at third base in today’s game against the Twins. Eric Wood will spell Freese at some point in the game.
>>> Planet of the aches: 1B Josh Bell (knee surgery) has been cleared for baserunning, so you can expect him to be in a Grapefruit League game lineup next week. “He is in the final stages of his preparation for game activity,” head athletic trainer Todd Tomczyk said. “The goal for this week is to get him into some sim games and baserunning.” … C Francisco Cervelli (foot) reported no ill effects this morning after playing in his first game on Tuesday. … RHP Brandon Cumpton (elbow surgery) “is still making his journey though the flat-ground phase of throwing,” Tomczyk said. … RHP Angel Sanchez (elbow surgery) and RHP Casey Sadler (elbow) will throw sim games this week. … RHP Jason Stoffell (shoulder) is throwing on flat ground. … UTIL Adam Frazier was dinged on the thumb and hit on the arm by pitch. “(He’s) sore, but he’s doing well. He’s a tough kid, so he’ll be back out where when he can,” Tomczyk said.
>>> UPDATE 11:57 a.m. – The Pirates today came to terms on contracts with their 21 pre-arb players. That group includes Jameson Taillon, Steven Brault, A.J. Schugel, Trevor Williams, Chad Kuhl and Adam Frazier. None of the salaries were revealed, but most (if not all) will be around the $535,000 minimum big league salary.
After chatting with some folks over the past couple of days, I have not heard any complaints about the process this year. Last year, Gerrit Cole was unhappy with a contract that essentially gave him no significant raise after winning 19 games in 2015. This season? “Everything is fine. Not too dissimilar to every other team,” one agent told me. Perhaps the front office learned from that public spat — recall that GM Neal Huntington said management would re-evaluate and possibly tweak its contract calculation process — and is taking a gentler approach with the players.
>>> You want links? I’ve got links:
When they told Adam Frazier to find an outfielder’s mitt, he thought he was being pranked.
Ivan Nova says he having his best spring training ever.
Blue Jays 12, Pirates nil. Ouch.
>>> Wednesday’s game: Pirates at Twins, 1:05 p.m., Hammond Stadium, Fort Myers. Radio: 93.7 FM
Pirates: Phil Gosselin 4, Starling Marte 8, Gregory Polanco 7, David Freese 5, John Jaso 3, Kevin Newman 6, Danny Ortiz 9, Jin-De Jhang DH, Jackson Williams 2. RHP Josh Lindblom
Also pitching for Pirates: RH Jared Hughes, RH Dovydas Neverauskas, LH Dan Runzler, RH Edgar Santana, LH Jared Lakind, LH Cody Dickson.
Twins: Zach Granite 9, Joe Mauer 3, Brain Dozier 4, Byung-ho Park DH, Jason Castro 2, Drew Stubbs 8, Robbie Grossman 7, Matt Hague 5, Ehire Adrianza 6. RHP Kyle Gibson
Also pitching for Twins: RH Ryan Vogelsong, LH Craig Breslow, LH Stephen Gonsalves, RH Aaron Slegers, RH Felix Jorge, RH Fernando Romero
>>> Thursday’s game: Pirates (LHP Steven Brault) at Tigers (RHP Justin Verlander), 1:05 P.M., Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium, Lakeland, Fla. Webcast: pirates.com
Also pitching for Pirates: RH Trevor Williams, LH Tyler Webb, RH Tyler Eppler
Also pitching for Tigers: LH Chad Bell, LH Blaine Hardy, LH Kyle Ryan, LH Daniel Stumpf, RH Ruben Alaniz
>>> Friday’s game: Orioles (LHP Wade Miley) at Pirates (RHP Gerrit Cole), 1:05 p.m., LECOM Park, Bradenton. Radio: 93.7 FM
Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.