David Freitas greets former Braves pitcher Bartolo Colon during 2017 spring training. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Catcher Freitas called up by Braves, gets RBI double in big-league debut

 

PHILADELPHIA – Well-traveled catcher David Freitas was traded in 2012 for Kurt Suzuki and traded in 2013 for Jim Johnson. Now he’s teammates with both.

“Baseball is a small world,” said Freitas, who was called up by the Braves from Triple-A Gwinnett after they decided to put catcher Tyler Flowers on the 10-day disabled list.

Freitas, 28, found out Tuesday night, joined the Braves before Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Phillies, then went 1-for-3 with an RBI double and caught seven innings in his major league debut in the second game, a 5-2 win that featured a strong performance from pitcher Julio Teheran.

Freitas lined out in the second inning and doubled to center field in the fourth to give the Braves a 2-1 lead they would not relinquish.

“Almost had two (hits),” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He squared that first one up, then (got a hit) the next one. Biggest thing, I thought he did a really good job with Julio. To come in and just kind of be thrown in -- I don’t even remember if he caught him in spring training, but they kind of were clicking (Wednesday).”

Freitas signed a minor league contract with the Braves in November and hit .263 with three homers, 21 RBIs and a .338 on-base percentage in 72 games for Gwinnett.

His first call to the majors came from his Gwinnett manager after a Triple-A rainout Tuesday night at Norfolk, Va.

“It was raining hard, and I couldn’t answer my phone when Damon Berryhill called me,” said Freitas, who is 6 feet 3 and a muscular 225 pounds. “And then once I got under some cover and answered, he said, ‘Freit, you’re going up to the big leagues tomorrow.’ I was excited. I called my family right away, told them about it and they started booking flights.”

His mother, brother, and wife (with Freitas’ young son) scrambled to book flights from California and were en route to Philadelphia early Wednesday.

“They called me this morning after I woke up,” Freitas said. “They were in the airport, and I was watching the sunrise, so they had been in the airport all night. I feel more bad for them than me. Especially my son, he’s 2 years old. He not a real fan of airplanes. Or seat belts.”

But the inconvenience figured to be more than worth it to see the big moment that Freitas and his family and friends had been waiting for and wondering when it might happen. it did, and his debut was a success on all fronts.

“That was good to see. I’m happy for him,” said Snitker, a former minor league player and longtime former minor league manager who has a fondness for “those guys who spend a lot of time in the minor leagues and ride a lot of buses -- and I think his family and child, his little boy, were here. So that was really cool and I’m happy for him.”

Freitas’ big day finally came with his fifth organization.

“I always hoped for it,” Freitas said. “This is what you want when you sign up at 4 years old for T-ball; this is the end goal. So I’m always looking forward to that.”

A native of Wilton, Calif., near Sacramento, Freitas was a 15th-round draft pick by the Washington Nationals out of the University of Hawaii in 2010. He was a Single-A South Atlantic League All-Star in 2011 and was traded in 2012 to Oakland for Suzuki, whom he’ll now back up with the Braves until Flowers returns.

The Braves had planned to bring up Freitas on Friday anyway as a third catcher on the expanded September roster, but that move happened sooner due to Flowers’ wrist contusion. Freitas will move to third-catcher status the rest of the season if and when Flowers returns from the DL.

Freitas was traded from Oakland to Baltimore in December 2013 as the player to be named later in the Johnson trade. And in December 2015, the Cubs took Freitas in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft.

In his eight-year minor league career with 10 teams, he has a .272 average with 57 home runs and a .358 OBP in 672 games and 2,321 at-bats.

Snitker always told his upper-minor-league players to be ready, that they were only a phone call away from the big leagues if the Braves had an injury or other situation that required a replacement. Freitas viewed it the same way.

“Absolutely,” he said. “I was in Gwinnett, but my mindset is, baseball is baseball. And if you stay ready and keep yourself as read as you possibly can every single day, when they do make that call you know you’ll be ready to go up there. That’s how I look at it. You’ve got a lot of guys coming up and down from the big leagues anyway, you’re playing against most of these guys anyway. Especially from the catching standpoint, too, catching all these pitchers and a couple of rehabbers, too. A lot of the guys that I caught throughout the year are now here, so that works out pretty good.”

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