Freese key in Bucs' opener win vs. former club

Freese key in Bucs' opener win vs. former club

PITTSBURGH -- David Freese had played 721 games in the Majors before taking the field Sunday afternoon at PNC Park. But he'd never played in one like this -- not with the Pirates, not against his former (and hometown) team, the Cardinals.

Nonetheless, Freese thrived in his Pittsburgh debut. The Bucs third baseman went 2-for-4 and made a few highlight-reel grabs on defense in the Pirates' Opening Day, 4-1 win over the Cards.

"He's fit in seamlessly in the clubhouse, in the dugout, on the field and in the lineup," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We're happy we've got him."

Freese's single to center

After sitting and waiting all winter, Freese signed a one-year, $3 million deal with the Pirates as a free agent on March 11. He was quickly thrust into action, playing in Spring Training games before he even had a chance to take "live" batting practice against real pitchers.

But the former World Series MVP has effortlessly handled it all -- the long offseason, the quick adjustment, a new team, a different environment -- and did so again Sunday, batting third and playing third in his first game with the Pirates.

Freese recorded the second out of the game, stopping a chopper from Tommy Pham, and helped Francisco Liriano get out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth with a sharp stop and quick throw to second base.

Freese handles tough grounder

"I felt pretty comfortable a few days into camp. This is a real easygoing group, a great organization," Freese said. "Not just saying that, either. These guys are awesome."

Freese spent most of his career, from 2008-13, with one organization: the Cardinals. He still lives in St. Louis and keeps up with some of his former teammates. He worked out this offseason in Jupiter, Fla., where the Cards' Spring Training camp is located.

So, was it weird standing in the batter's box Sunday afternoon and looking at Adam Wainwright on the mound? Freese had never faced the Cardinals. That particular matchup had only happened once in live BP about seven years ago, as Freese recalled.

"I'm not really worried about that, in all honesty. It's been a couple years since I was a Cardinal," Freese said. "Of course I still talk to those guys. I still live in St. Louis and see some of those guys running around. I don't see it as facing Waino. I'm just trying to beat those guys over there."

Wainwright was happy to see his friend and longtime teammate land on his feet -- even if Freese's success Sunday came at Wainwright's expense.

"I'm glad he got that opportunity there. He's a great player," Wainwright said. "He got a couple key hits today, too, and probably made some game-saving defensive plays a few times. He's a quality big leaguer. I knew he would catch on with somebody."

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.