ARLINGTON, Texas >> Sometimes opportunities arise at the most unexpected times.
That’s a lesson David Freitas already knew well before the Seattle Mariners recalled him from Triple-A Tacoma on March 30.
Freitas, 29, who played one season at the University of Hawaii in 2010, the same year he was drafted in the 15th round by Washington, was summoned to Seattle after starting backstop Mike Zunino headed to the 10-day disabled list with an oblique injury.
Over the next several weeks, he and Mike Marjama split time behind the plate. But when Zunino was activated on April 20, Freitas had played well enough in his 11 games to earn the backup spot behind the former first-round pick.
“When they called me up, I saw it as a great opportunity, an opportunity to show what I can bring to the ballclub,” said Freitas, who played 662 minor league games prior to making his big league debut last August with Atlanta. “There’s a lot that goes into it (catching), with the game planning with the pitchers, how we’re going to pitch certain guys and with the bullpen coming in in the middle to the end part of the game. When I got this opportunity, I wanted to do everything I can to win games.”
Seattle, who acquired him on a waiver claim last October, is the sixth different organization Freitas has played for, along with the Nationals, Athletics, Orioles, Cubs and Braves. But it was the December 2013 trade from Oakland to Baltimore that might have laid the foundation for his big league debut nearly four years in the future.
“When I was with the Orioles, I really had to learn how to prepare myself every day even though I’m not in there (playing regularly),” Freitas said. “That was the first time I had to learn to be a backup. Being a starting player and playing every day is awesome, but learning how to be a backup was a really big challenge. I think it took me about a year to learn my routine and what helps me stay on top of my game with not necessarily getting the reps.”
In fact, he recalls a spring training meeting with the Mariners when he was asked to name the biggest obstacle he’s had to overcome thus far in his baseball career. Naturally, he chose going from being a perennial starter to being a backup as his answer.
And that flexibility was on full display over the weekend in Texas when Zunino started the first two games of a three-game set with the Rangers. Freitas started Sunday’s series finale, nearly hitting his first big league home run, thwarted by an athletic play from Texas center fielder Delino DeShields Jr. in the top of the sixth.
But even after being robbed of his first big league tater, Freitas really can’t complain. That’s because after playing six games for the Braves late last season, his first taste of the big leagues, he has already doubled that total this season with the Mariners.
A native of California, Freitas loves playing on the West Coast for the first time as a professional, an experience made even more meaningful since his wife, Kacee, and son, Owen, are living with him in Seattle.
“Oh, it’s awesome. My family’s a drive away — a pretty far drive, but they’re still a drive away at any time, and I got my family in Seattle, too. I couldn’t be happier,” he said.