4/15/2013 7:56 P.M. ET
Prospect Freeman thrilled to join Reds in homestand
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- Reliever Justin Freeman was on Triple-A Louisville's road trip at Columbus when he found out Monday morning that he was going to the big leagues for the first time.
"It was a nice wakeup call," Freeman said.
Freeman was summoned to take the roster spot of rotation ace Johnny Cueto, who went on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right lat muscle.
After that, Freeman made the nearly two-hour drive down Interstate 71 to Great American Ball Park.
"I was going under the speed limit. I didn't want to wreck the rental car," Freeman said. "And everyone was calling me. ... My phone wouldn't stop going off. I had to take it easy and get on the right side of the road."
A native and resident of Macon, Ga., the 26-year-old Freeman had a 1.80 ERA in four appearances with one walk and six strikeouts over five innings in Triple-A this year.
During Spring Training, Freeman was in big league camp as a non-roster invitee, but he missed time with a shoulder injury. He made two appearances in spring games for the Reds at the end of March.
"I know I liked his stuff in Spring Training," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "He was hurt in Spring Training, but then he pitched against the Diamondbacks in the exhibition game. And he looked real good in the exhibition game. And I talked to [Double-A Pensacola pitching coach] Tom Brown about him, who had him last year. Tom said he could pitch."
For Pensacola last season, Freeman had a 2.91 ERA in a Southern League-leading 57 appearances. That earned him the invitation to big league camp this spring.
"It didn't come to reality until last year," Freeman said. "I've been preparing my whole life. But you say you can prepare for it, but when you get called up, you don't even know what to say."
Baker, Reds appreciate Jackie every day
CINCINNATI -- As part of Major League Baseball's celebrations at ballparks nationwide, the Reds and Phillies marked Jackie Robinson Day on Monday, the 66th anniversary of the day the Brooklyn Dodger great broke the color barrier.
Continuing a tradition started by former Reds star Ken Griffey Jr. in 2007, every player on the field wore Robinson's No. 42 on Monday. In 1997, under the direction of Commissioner Bud Selig, Robinson's No. 42 was retired across all of Major League Baseball in an unprecedented tribute.
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"It's pretty cool. It's my first time," Reds third baseman Todd Frazier said. "You feel like you're with him a little bit wearing it. I'm glad for what he did. It took a strong man to do it."
Reds manager Dusty Baker always considers the day special. Baker never met Robinson, who died in 1972, but has spent time with his family.
"I met his wife and kids and brother Max," Baker said. "I was invited to the field dedication at UCLA. We played an exhibition game out there -- the Dodgers against UCLA.
"My dad used to talk about Jackie all the time. We watched all of the movies. My Mom made me do book reports and stuff. My Dad used to remind me, 'You know what year you were born?' It was the year that Jackie Robinson was MVP (1949). I have a Jackie Robinson wall in my house -- my weight room. My son says he wants to go to UCLA and play second base. That's pretty cool."
Included during pregame festivities at Great American Ball Park, University of Cincinnati student and Jackie Robinson Foundation scholar Brittany Jones threw out a ceremonial first pitch. "Slick" Willie Shaw of the Harlem Globetrotters served as the honorary captain. SBM Management Services was awarded the 2013 Most Valuable Diverse Business Partner Award by Reds COO Phil Castellini and Sean Rugless, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky African American Chamber of Commerce. The Black Lawyers Association of Cincinnati honored Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Cheryl Grant and three scholarship recipients.
The movie trailer to "42: The Jackie Robinson Story," was also shown to fans on the video board.
Frazier, along with second baseman Brandon Phillips, saw an advanced screening of "42" last month during Spring Training in Arizona.
"It put some perspective on what he really went through -- all the hatred towards him when he was playing," Frazier said. "People nowadays get upset when fans call you a bum. He changed the game. He had a lot of hardship, but it did not seem to deter him at all. That's what I respect about him the most."
• The Reds have not named a starting pitcher to replace Cueto for Thursday's start vs. the Marlins. All expectations are that left-hander Tony Cingrani will be called up from Louisville. If Cingrani pitches, he will be the first lefty to start a game for Cincinnati since Travis Wood (13 starts), Dontrelle Willis (13 starts) and Matt Maloney (two starts) in 2011. Including Monday, right-handers have made 178 consecutive starts, which is the second-longest streak in franchise history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.