Freese makes first start at third for Bucs

Freese makes first start at third for Bucs

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- David Freese lined up at third base Sunday afternoon for the first time in a Pirates uniform, and he didn't have to wait long for his first real test.

In the second inning, catcher Russell Martin smacked a hard ground ball several feet to Freese's left. The newest Pirate laid out for the ball, snagged it in his glove, quickly stood up and fired a high throw to first base, where John Jaso reeled it in and tagged the bag in time to record the out.

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Freese, the Pirates' everyday third baseman as long as Jung Ho Kang is sidelined, played five innings at third base in the Pirates' 3-2 loss to the Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.

"He's a solid defender," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He's still instinctive over there. He's going to lay out. He can make plays. He was glad to get back on the grass and play some defense."

Freese, who signed a one-year, $3 million deal with the Pirates on March 11, will be back at third base on Monday.

When Kang returns, Freese still figures to see time at third base on Kang's off-days. With Kang starts, Freese could slide across the infield as the right-handed half of the Pirates' first-base platoon. Freese has 21 innings of experience at first in the Majors, so the Pirates plan to ease him into the position later this spring.

"We're going to pick some days where we'll have a possible work day here and there to get him acclimated at first base," Hurdle said, "because there's not a lot of history there."

Cutch hammers away

Andrew McCutchen continued to drive the ball Sunday, launching his fourth Grapefruit League home run to right-center off Jays starter Marco Estrada. McCutchen has gone deep in three straight games and four of his last five.

Caminero back on track

It had been a rough spring for flame-throwing reliever Arquimedes Caminero, who entered Sunday having allowed nine runs in 4 1/3 innings for an 18.69 ERA. But he looked like the best version of his 2015 self against Toronto, throwing two perfect innings.

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"We revisited some things with him after his last outing," Hurdle said. "The focus and the intent today was what we've normally seen from him. When he's aggressive, finishes pitches, stays on line, his stuff plays big time. It played well today."

Star power

Left fielder Starling Marte went 3-for-4 on Sunday and is hitting .440 with nine hits in his last 18 at-bats.

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.