David Freese injury opens 3B for St. Louis Cardinals rookie Matt Carpenter

Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Having two third basemen with almost identical batting lines might seem like a surplus to some teams.

But some teams' starting third basemen aren't David Freese. Freese (.296/.373/.471), dealing with an ankle injury that is—at least—not nearly as severe as usual, is out of the lineup for Saturday's game against the Washington Nationals. The St. Louis Cardinals can be more sanguine than most about the health of their World Series hero, in the midst of a breakout regular season, because they have Matt Carpenter, who Saturday afternoon was hitting .300/.372/.474.

Don't bother with the addition: That's an OPS of .844 for Freese, and .845 for Carpenter. Both are late-blooming third base prospects with bats that have played up in the major leagues; both combine a high batting average with gap power. And after a season spent filling in for just about everybody but David Freese—he's been Lance Berkman, Carlos Beltran, and even, in a pinch, Daniel Descalso so far—Carpenter has finally gotten a chance to play at his natural position, behind his more famous, less healthy counterpart.

That versatility is why the Cardinals might be able to afford to keep both third basemen around, even with Freese playing 140 games for the first time in his career. A backup third baseman who could play anywhere from 25 to 100 games there is a luxury; a backup third baseman who could do that while also filling in for the Cardinals' aging outfielders and taking some bizarre but serviceable innings at second is a weapon.

Freese will be back before the regular season is over, and Carpenter will go back to playing anywhere but third base. And that's the best news the Cardinals could have hoped for: The chance to slot David Freese into the order twice.

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