The St. Louis Cardinals will have some reinforcements on the infield when they meet the Baltimore Orioles in a three-game interleague set at Camden Yards Tuesday. Starting third baseman David Freese will return from the hand fracture that kept him out of the lineup for all of May and most of June after going 3-13 with a double in four rehab starts with the Memphis Redbirds. Nick Punto, who missed more than a month after suffering a forearm strain that made it difficult for him to field his various positions, was 8-24 in seven games with the Springfield Cardinals, most of them as designated hitter.
The Cardinals will have a designated hitter of their own as they visit the Orioles and then the Tampa Bay Rays, and with a sudden glut of third baseman—rookie Daniel Descalso will roam the infield with Punto now that Freese is back, even though backup third baseman Albert Pujols remains sidelined with a broken wrist—it would be unsurprising for Freese to spend a game or two as designated hitter to work himself back into the lineup.
Freese and Punto replace rookies Pete Kozma and Andrew Brown, who both reached base in the Cardinals' shutout loss on Sunday.
The St. Louis Cardinals continue to lead the NL Central as MLB Standings roll over into their second month, taking a 2.5 game lead over the Cincinnati Reds into Wednesday morning after a win over the Florida Marlins, who are just a game back of the Philadelphia Phillies.
David Freese's injury left the Cardinals with even more holes to fill, but their third base prospects are a little better than they were last year after Freese's injury, according to Viva El Birdos. Daniel Descalso did a fine job of reassuring fans Tuesday, hitting a three-run home run—the first of his career—to put the Cardinals ahead of the Marlins for good. Descalso, along with Allen Craig and veteran utility infielder Nick Punto, figures to hold down the position for the Cardinals while Freese recuperates, although Matt Carpenter looms in AAA after nearly making the team out of Spring Training.
The Cardinals will face the Milwaukee Brewers over the weekend, an important early series in an NL Central race that's been characterized by all three would-be frontrunners' continual failure to pull away from the rest.
St. Louis Cardinals third baseman David Freese, famously injury-prone, has added a new area of concern—he'll miss two to three months after suffering a hand-fracture while being hit by a pitch against the Atlanta Braves. Freese's injury and some roster machinations caused Albert Pujols to end that game at third base, but that's... unlikely to be the Cardinals' long-term plan at the position—while Freese is gone free-agent acquisition Nick Punto and rookie Daniel Descalso, defensive specialists with deficient bats, are likely to get most of the playing time there.
Allen Craig was recalled from his rehab trip to replace Freese on the active roster. Craig plays third base but is unlikely to play much there for the time being, according to a report during Monday's Fox Sports Midwest broadcast. The Cardinals have long been skeptical of his arm and footwork, and he's on the roster ostensibly as a fourth outfielder and pinch-hitter.
David Freese, who's been injured every year of his Major League career, hit .296/.361/.404 last year in 70 games. In 2011 he was hitting .356 before the injury. He was acquired by the Cardinals during the 2007 offseason, traded from the San Diego Padres for Jim Edmonds.
St. Louis Cardinals third baseman David Freese has notoriously fragile ankles, but in Sunday's loss to the Atlanta Braves he added a new feat in the Legend of David Freese and Injury, fracturing his left hand according to the Cardinals' official Twitter. Freese will be evaluated tomorrow by team doctors, but the Cardinals have already dealt with one hand fracture this season—to reliever Brian Tallet, who went on the disabled list on April 12 and is due back a little less than a month later.
Four-corners utility man Allen Craig is currently on rehab assignment with the AA Springfield Cardinals, and could play some third base when he comes back, but Nick Punto and Daniel Descalso are likely to see the bulk of the innings in Freese's absence. AAA third baseman Matt Carpenter nearly made the team out of Spring Training and, after a very slow start, is hitting .361 with six walks and two home runs in his last 10 games.
Freese was hitting .365/.396/.482 to start the 2011 season; ankle injuries in 2010 limited him to just 70 games in 2010.