SOGARD, OTERO & FREIMAN HAVE BEEN 2013 REVELATIONS
Whether the 2013 Oakland Athletics make this season a memorable one, as they did during last year’s magical run, still remains to be seen. However, for three A’s players, the 2013 campaign is one they will always remember. Why? Because for Eric Sogard, Dan Otero and Nate Freiman, it was 2013 when they truly established themselves as Major League players.
Beyond the “Nerd Power” persona and marketing slogan, Sogie has gained attention in the best possible way. He has played his way into a semi-regular role with the team, starting at second base against right-handed pitchers in a highly-productive platoon arrangement with Alberto Callaspo. After three seasons of shuttling between Sacramento and Oakland on I-80, the diminutive infielder seems to have finally found a home here. Doing many of the “small things” that help win ball games, whether it be turning double plays, laying down a perfect bunt, or delivering a clutch two-out hit, Sogard has become a vital cog in Operation Oakland. He’s currently batting .263 with two homers and 31RBI, but maybe most significantly, ranks third on the club in doubles (24) behind Jed Lowrie (40) and Josh Donaldson (29). And in the process, he’s become one of the team’s most popular fan favorites. When the Rangers’ Matt Garza recently barked at Sogard, whose boyish face looks more like an IT repairman than a big league player, for laying down a bunt, it only added to the Sogie legend.
As for Otero, the 28-year-old right-hander has been a revelation in the bullpen this summer. After toiling in the minors for several years, he saw brief action with the Giants last season. He had hoped to make San Francisco’s roster again this spring, but ironically it was one nightmarish afternoon against the A’s at Scottsdale Stadium that may have led to his ultimate departure from the Giants. On March 23, Otero entered the game in relief and hit the veritable buzz saw. When the smoke and rubble cleared, he limped from the spring training game having been torched for five runs and five hits, including a home run by Adam Rosales—you remember him, the human ping pong ball–and retiring no one. With that scenario, who could have guessed that five months later, Otero would become a fixture in Oakland’s stellar bullpen? In fact, Otero—like Sogard—forced his way into a vital role with the team. With his ERA gradually shrinking to a current team-low 1.19 (22 G, 30.1 ip, 29 h, 5 r, 4 er), the former River Cat closer is now being used in the back three innings of critical games. Maybe no one in the Oakland organization has come as far as Dan Otero has this year.
Unless, of course, if you consider the case of the Gentle Giant, Nate Freiman. By now, you probably know the story. Drafted by San Diego in 2009 out of Duke University, the 6-8, 250-pound first baseman was a RBI machine in the minors with a four-year total of 368. However, the Padres never promoted him above Double-A. And the Astros, another cellar-dwelling team who picked him in the Rule 5 Draft last offseason, also saw no need for a major league promotion when they acquired Chris Carter in the Lowrie deal. So, one week before the season, the defending AL West champion A’s claimed the undervalued slugger off the waiver wire. Considered a curious move at the time, Freiman wasted little time in rewarding his new employers. He went 2-for-3 against Seattle in his big league debut April 3, and proceeded to bat .351 with nine RBI in 14 games in May to win American League Rookie of the Month. Since that auspicious debut, he has hit consistently against left-handed pitching (.313) in a left-right platoon at first base with Brandon Moss and now Daric Barton. Overall, he ranks fourth on the team with a .279 batting average, eight doubles, four homers and 23 RBI. Not bad for a guy who skipped Triple-A.
So, no matter how this season ends, or how long their careers last, it’s safe to say that a collective smile will emerge when someone makes mention of the 2013 season to Eric Sogard, Dan Otero and Nate Freiman. And for good reason.