The Cardinals Major League Notebook 04/06

David Freese got a chance to play in his hometown as a pro for the first time when he made the 25-man roster and took over many of the responsibilities at third base for injured third baseman Troy Glaus.

Glaus is out until perhaps July after his shoulder didn't respond from January surgery, but Freese almost missed his chance, suffering a foot injury at about the same time as Glaus had his surgery.

Favoring the foot eventually strained his left Achilles' tendon, leaving the 25-year-old Freese out of some early camp drills and unavailable to play defense in early exhibition games.

Difficulty pushing off the foot caused the club to reassign Freese, a non-roster player, to minor league camp March 8.

"When I talked to (manager) Tony (La Russa) and when I talked to Mo (general manager John Mozeliak), they said, ‘Let's play it by ear. Get healthy and something else may change.' But personally, I thought that was it," Freese said.

"Everybody kept telling me to keep my head up and keep playing. That's what I did."

At the same time, Joe Mather got the flu, which cost him 10 pounds, and then Mather's batting average took even a larger drop. Freese was brought back from the minor league complex and installed at third while Mather was sent to Memphis.

Freese finished Grapefruit League play going 14 for his last 33.

"He never left the camp because he was playing poorly," La Russa said. "He left camp because he was unable to perform.

"It's impressive he kept his game together. But there's a big difference between a guy being sent out and coming back because of an emergency. That's what usually happens."

Freese will be joined in the third-base derby by Brian Barden, Joe Thurston and Brendan Ryan.

THE CARDINALS WILL CONTEND IF …: RHP Chris Carpenter can make 30 to 35 starts. 2B Skip Schumaker doesn't embarrass himself at his new position. Either RHP Jason Motte or RHP Chris Perez emerges as a hard-throwing closer. If 1B Albert Pujols or C Yadier Molina would miss considerable time due to injury, then the dream is over.

Primed For A Big Season: SS Khalil Greene, who fanned 100 times in 389 at-bats last year, whiffed just three times in his first 60 at-bats this spring and hit .417. Greene said he had stopped moving his head while batting.

On The Decline: 3B Troy Glaus, who drove in 99 runs in 2008, won't get anywhere close to that this season, as he probably will miss eight to 12 weeks recovering from right shoulder surgery in the offseason. Glaus would be a candidate to be traded later in the season if the Cardinals are out of the race because the club is deep in third basemen in its system.

NOTES & QUOTES

• RHP Kyle McClellan was one of the surprises of the 2008 season as a rookie reliever for the Cardinals but was one of the disappointments of the spring. After a brilliant first four months in his career last year, McClellan, probably tiring in the course of working in 68 games, had a 5.59 earned run average for August and a 12.27 ERA for September. It wasn't much better this spring as McClellan, a candidate for the rotation if Chris Carpenter had faltered, had a 9.60 ERA in 17 innings and walked eight.

• RHP Chris Perez, the closer at the end of last season, was sent to Class AAA although he might not be there long, if RHPs Kyle McClellan and Brad Thompson struggle. Perez missed two weeks because of some shoulder discomfort and, after he returned, the club was concerned about putting stress on him too early.

• 3B David Freese, a St. Louis native, and OF Colby Rasmus, both non-roster players, will be making their big-league debuts for the Cardinals. RHP Jason Motte figures to be the Cardinals' closer as a rookie although he finished last season with the club.

• 2B Skip Schumaker, a converted outfielder, made six errors this spring, counting one against Class AA Memphis on Saturday. "I know I'm still very much a work in progress, for sure," Schumaker said.

• RHP Chris Carpenter, who hasn't won a game for the Cardinals since the 2006 World Series, will make his first start this season on Thursday at home against Pittsburgh. Carpenter has been troubled by elbow and shoulder problems the last two seasons.

By The Numbers: 12—Players on the 2009 opening-day roster who were on the opening-night roster in 2008.

Quote To Note: "Maybe he's trying to do too much or something. I don't know. Whatever it is, he'd better try to get it changed."—Pitching coach Dave Duncan on the struggles of RH reliever Kyle McClelan.


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