PITTSBURGH -- David Freese's role has changed since the return of Jung Ho Kang, but the veteran Pirates infielder showed Wednesday night that he still has a knack for delivering the big hit in a key situation.
With the Bucs trailing by a run in the fifth inning, Freese drilled a two-run homer to cap a four-run frame in a 5-4 win over the D-backs.
Freese's drive off Arizona starter Rubby De La Rosa scored Gregory Polanco as it soared 451 feet per Statcast™, gliding into the Pirates' bullpen and dropping into the outstretched glove of Neftali Feliz. Pittsburgh had stranded five through the first four innings, and Freese was happy to offer starter Jeff Locke some run support.
"We didn't help him out too well early with guys in scoring position, me in particular a couple times, so it was nice to kind of show up there," Freese said.
Since Kang returned May 6 after suffering severe left leg injuries last September, Freese has started 10 games and played eight full games this month.
"We revisited it right before we felt Kang was headed our direction," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "There's going to be ample opportunity for [Freese] to play, whether it be at third or at first. We'll see what situations might be created. He's a pro, he's having a blast, he's working hard, so he's been a nice addition to the club."
Though sporadic playing time could affect a hitter's rhythm, Freese said it's also a challenge to stay sharp on defense.
"You've just got to keep working, and I think the tough thing with all that is you might not get a certain play for a week or two maybe, so when you're getting your work in, you've got to simulate certain grounders and certain movements," Freese said.
Freese said he takes pride in his role, even if it's a limited one -- particularly because depth becomes more important toward the end of a 162-game stretch, or when teams want to remain competitive in the postseason.
"I think it's easier when you love where you're at," Freese said. "I love being here. It makes it a lot easier coming to the yard. I think when you're on winning teams, you understand it takes more than 25 guys, sometimes 35 at later points in the season."
Sarah K. Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Pittsburgh. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.