Freese back in swing of things with Pirates

Third baseman makes debut as DH vs. Yankees

Freese back in swing of things with Pirates

BRADENTON, Fla. -- David Freese signed with the Pirates on Friday. He reported to McKechnie Field on Saturday. Less than a week later, after a Spring Training crash course, he stood in the batter's box against Masahiro Tanaka and Luis Severino.

Freese made his Pirates debut on Thursday, going 1-for-3 with two strikeouts as the designated hitter in the Bucs' 7-2 loss to the Yankees. Freese went down swinging against Tanaka, the Yankees' ace, in the first inning, and he struck out against Severino in the fifth.

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In between, Freese knocked a single to right field against right-hander Johnny Barbato.

"It's exciting to get back. It's probably the longest offseason I've had since I started playing baseball," Freese said. "It's fun. I think the first week or so, it kind of felt like you're on the DL, trying to play catch up and get back out there."

After waiting all winter to find a new team and beginning his spring workouts at home, Freese officially signed a one-year, $3 million deal with the Pirates on Friday. Since making his first appearance in the Pirates' clubhouse on Saturday morning, Freese has been taking batting practice and working out at third base.

The one thing he hadn't done, he said, was take live batting practice. So the first inning Thursday, when he stepped to the plate wearing a St. Patrick's Day-green No. 7 Pirates jersey, was the first time he's faced live pitching since last season.

"Some good arms coming at you, but that's what you need," Freese said, smiling. "We all need it, regardless of if we're playing catch up or not.

"I wanted to get in the games. That was the first live BP I've had. I think getting into games is important. Just keep working."

Freese will be the designated hitter again when the Pirates face the Phillies -- and old friend Charlie Morton -- on Friday afternoon in Clearwater. He's scheduled to have the day off Saturday before making his first appearance at third base on Sunday against the Blue Jays in Dunedin.

"We just wanted to get him out on the field and put the bat in his hand," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He's done his work, will continue to do more work."

Freese couldn't specify a certain number of at-bats he'll need before he's prepared to start the season or how much time he'll need to work at third base, where he'll open the year assuming Jung Ho Kang is on the disabled list.

But the seven-year Major League veteran has more than two weeks to get ready for Opening Day, and for now he's content to take things as they come.

"These guys are great. It's a chill group. They work hard. They have a good time," Freese said. "They know what it takes to win. That's the environment I was looking for, regardless of my role. I'm really here just to do what I'm asked."

Adam Berry is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.