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Freddie Freeman singles in Dodgers debut, Walker Buehler stretches out

Debut day for a pair of Dodgers on Tuesday

MLB: Spring Training-Cincinnati Reds at Los Angeles Dodgers Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Four days after signing a six-year, $162 million contract, Freddie Freeman made his game debut in a Dodgers uniform on Tuesday. Hearing fans chant his name at Camelback Ranch, Freeman singled in his first at-bat.

Freeman batted twice on Tuesday, which has been the usual in-game workload in the early going for Dodgers regulars. He grounded into a force out in his second at-bat, then spoke with Kirsten Watson at SportsNet LA from the dugout after playing four innings at first base.

“It’s a new chapter in my life. This was a big day. My whole family is here watching,” Freeman said. “It’s been a special day.”

He said it’s been a whirlwind few days joining a new team, and told Watson that his goal is to get to know at least three people each day.

Walker Buehler made his first start of the spring against the Reds, and was efficient enough to stretch into the fourth inning, recording 14 outs on just 53 pitches. Bueher allowed two runs on five hits, striking out five.

The thought this year is that given the shortened spring training, most starting pitchers won’t have enough time to be fully stretched out by opening day. Nothing has been officially announced yet by MLB, but there will likely be expanded rosters for the first few weeks of the regular season to account for the need for extra pitching. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported Tuesday that rosters will begin at 28 players through May 1, instead of 26 players.

But with Buehler already tossing 53 pitches on Tuesday, he could conceivably make two more spring starts and still start for the Dodgers on opening day April 8 at Coors Field, or whenever he might start (Dave Roberts hasn’t yet named an opening day starter). That gives him a shorter path to being stretched out enough to make a start of some reasonable length in his first 2022 game that counts.

Clayton Kershaw, for instance, threw only 21 pitches and recorded five outs in his first spring start last Friday. Kershaw is also coming an offseason of rest for his elbow after getting an injection of platelet rich plasma into his elbow, which sidelined him for the better part of four months last year. Kershaw makes his second start on Wednesday against the Guardians at Camelback Ranch.

Notes

  • After Max Muncy made his spring debut on Monday, and Freeman played his first game on Tuesday, the Dodgers spring debut streak was supposed to include Mookie Betts on Wednesday. But that might be pushed back a day after a stomach bug for the Dodgers’ right fielder.

  • Austin Barnes left Monday’s game against the White Sox after taking a foul ball off his catcher’s mask, walking back to the clubhouse with head athletic trainer Thomas Albert. The Dodgers got reasonably good news on Barnes on Tuesday, though he could still miss a few days. Barnes passed all concession tests, per David Vassegh of AM 570.
  • After Kershaw starts Wednesday, Tony Gonsolin is listed as Thursday’s starter for the Dodgers against the Rockies at Salt River Fields.