Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Freese's Status Uncertain as Back Pain Persists

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Freese's Status Uncertain as Back Pain Persists

Article excerpt

JUPITER, Fla. With less than a week remaining in spring training, the Cardinals' camp, which was oh, so quiet for oh, so long, has been upended by a series of injuries that leaves the status of several regulars uncertain for opening day.

Third baseman David Freese was a last-minute scratch from Sunday's game because of recurring back pain that requires an evaluation today to get to the bottom of an injury that has persisted for nearly three weeks. Freese joins Carlos Beltran, who has a small fracture in his toe, as starters who will have three or fewer exhibition games to play. If, that is, they are available at all before the Cardinals leave Friday evening for Arizona. Freese's aggravation of a previous injury comes a day after closer Jason Motte was diagnosed with a strain in his right elbow.

"It's not the way you ever want to finish a camp," general manager John Mozeliak said. "We just have to take everything day to day, and it can't be a knee-jerk reaction. Let's see where we are in the next couple days."

That same day-to-day description holds for another lingering question at the end of camp: whether a deal can be struck with ace Adam Wainwright on a contract extension.

The Cardinals are operating on the understanding that opening day, when Wainwright starts against Arizona, is the deadline to have a deal or end talks. Mozeliak acknowledged that "time's ticking." Progress has been made over the weekend on an extension that is set to be the largest finalized by the Cardinals with a pitcher. Mozeliak and Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. met with Wainwright's agent Thursday at the team's offices in Jupiter, and DeWitt agreed that the meeting forwarded a conversation that continued through the weekend.

"We're hopeful," he said Sunday.

Less clear is how hopeful the team can be about having Freese or Beltran available for opening day. Freese was scheduled to start and play third base Sunday until just a few minutes before the game, when a trainer notified manager Mike Matheny that Freese's back pain had returned. Freese aggravated the back during baserunning drills. The original injury which has often been described as "tightness" stems from a play March 4. Freese chased a popup into foul territory and leaned against the gate separating the field from the stands. The gate gave way and Freese landed on the concrete steps, bruising his tailbone.

Freese missed several games, returned to the lineup as a designated hitter, had the pain flare up, returned again to the lineup, and now has been sidelined a third time. His inability to overcome the discomfort has increased concern. Freese will have an MRI taken of the area this morning to check for a reason and provide a better sense of the injury's scope.

"It's time to push but not something like that," Matheny said, pointing to the seven days the Cardinals have before the opener. "I don't know the severity. …

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