Cardinals Major League Notebook: 12/18/09

The Cardinals, still waiting for Matt Holliday's decision, had to deal with local resident David Freese's DWI this week.



   St. Louisan David Freese, the leading candidate for the Cardinals' open third base job for 2010, did not stand himself in good stead with the organization when he was arrested on a DWI charge in St. Louis County on Dec. 12. According to a police report, Freese's blood alcohol level was 0.232, almost three times the legal limit in Missouri.


   Upon learning of the arrest, general manager John Mozeliak said, "We are extremely disappointed upon hearing this." Shortly thereafter, Freese entered the club's employee assistance program.


   Freese's agent, Phil Tannenbaum, said, "David is not an alcoholic by any stretch of the imagination. That's probably the best answer I can give. David is cut from an excellent piece of cloth. David has never had a problem with alcohol. It's something that's very, very isolated."


   However, it was the second time Freese, 26, has been arrested on alcohol-related charges. He was arrested Sept. 12, 2007, on suspicion of public intoxication and resisting or obstructing a police officer in California. The misdemeanor charges stemmed from an incident at the Lake Elsinore Hotel and Casino, situated near where the San Diego Padres' Class A team played its home games.


   The Padres traded Freese to the Cardinals a couple of months later for Jim Edmonds. At the time, the Cardinals were unaware of Freese's previous arrest or the case's pending adjudication.


   The public intoxication charge was eventually dropped, but Freese pleaded guilty in January 2008 in a Riverside County court to the obstruction charge and was sentenced to three years' probation.


   The Cardinals became aware of Freese's previous arrest last winter, after details surfaced about a January accident in which Freese lost control of his car on an ice-slicked road in St. Louis County. Freese sustained injuries to both feet and ankles when his car veered into a ditch. Though he made the Cardinals' opening-day roster, Freese eventually required surgery to repair his left ankle and was sidelined about half of the season.


   The Cardinals did not discipline Freese, according to Tannenbaum. "I believe Mo would have said something to me if that was going to happen," Tannenbaum said.


   Freese was recalled in September and went 7-for-12 with a home run and five RBIs. His Cardinals average for 31 total at-bats was .323 after he batted .300 in 200 at-bats for Class AAA Memphis.




   --RHP Brad Penny, who signed a one-year contract with the club, said he had wanted to play for the Cardinals for years. The Oklahoma native said, "I grew up a Cardinals fan. I grew up an Ozzie Smith fan. I've wanted to play for them before, and I thought it was going to work out a few times in the past. This is exciting."


   Penny is considered one of the hardest throwers in the game, often reaching the mid 90s, but pitching coach Dave Duncan is hopeful of making the veteran a more complete pitcher, perhaps utilizing his split-fingered pitch more.


   "There are things he does very well," Duncan said. "Perhaps there is a thing or two we can offer that will make him better."


   --The Cardinals reportedly tweaked their offer to free agent OF Matt Holliday, who is "still is a player we like very much and hope to retain," general manager John Mozeliak said. The multiyear offer is said to be in the $15 million to $16 million per year range and may be for anywhere from six to eight years.


   --Manager Tony La Russa was one of 14 men named to a special committee by commissioner Bud Selig to consider improvements in "on-field matters," relative to pace of game, playoff schedules, instant replay and other matters. La Russa, one of four managers added to the committee, said, Selig "was quite clear when he asked me that there would be no restrictions. This is not going to be a laborious process with lots of just talk. I think things could happen very quickly -- if it's the right issue and if there is a meeting of the minds."


   --While new hitting coach Mark McGwire hadn't yet had his promised press conference, La Russa said McGwire had already started on his new job. "He's had conversations with some of our guys. He's worked with guys (in California) over the winter. He's studied tape. I know how excited he is about it," La Russa said.


   --Asked what he might do after he stopped managing, La Russa, third on the all-time list with 2,552 victories, said, "When you don't feel like you should be in the dugout anymore or on the field, if you only know baseball ... it's not on the field, it's upstairs somewhere doing something."


   BY THE NUMBERS: .205 -- Batting average by National League opponents against RHP Brad Penny after he was signed by San Francisco late in the season. While with Boston for most of the season, Penny's opponents batted .299.


   QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's a guy you didn't like to face. Any time you went into a game with him on the mound, you had a suspicion it was not going to be an easy game." -- Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan, on newly acquired RHP Brad Penny.




   The Cardinals didn't have many needs as the season ended although they probably could use one more veteran starting pitcher to go with RHPs Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Kyle Lohse. RHPs Joel Pineiro and Todd Wellemeyer, who filled out the rotation, both likely will be gone as free agents.


   BIGGEST NEEDS: When the Cardinals were dismissed early from the playoffs, they set the wheels in motion to try to re-sign free agent LF Matt Holliday and also 3B Mark DeRosa. Holliday, however, seemed likely to go into the open market.


   ARRIVAL: RHP Brad Penny (free agent from Giants).


   DEPARTURE: RHP Brad Thompson (released, signed minor league deal with Royals).


   FREE AGENTS: RHP Joel Pineiro, RHP Todd Wellemeyer, RHP John Smoltz, INF Khalil Greene, INF Mark DeRosa, 3B Troy Glaus, OF Rick Ankiel, LF Matt Holliday.


   The Cardinals have large interest in keeping Holliday and DeRosa and some interest in Smoltz. The others probably are gone.


   ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: OF Ryan Ludwick, 2B Skip Schumaker.


   Schumaker will make more as a second baseman than an outfielder. Ludwick likely will get close to $7 million and might have to be traded for payroll relief if Holliday signs a multiyear deal.


   IN LIMBO: OF Ryan Ludwick, a candidate to be traded last year, could be dealt this time. RHP Josh Kinney, a playoff hero in 2006, probably won't return.




   3B Mark DeRosa (left wrist surgery in October 2009) should be ready for spring training.


   1B Albert Pujols (arthroscopic right elbow surgery in October 2009) should be back at full strength for spring training.

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