As 2010 comes to a close, there may be one Cardinal looking forward to the New Year more than anyone. That man is third baseman David Freese. After missing much of last season with a right ankle injury, Freese is looking for a fresh start with St. Louis in 2011.
Despite having been on the team’s opening day roster each of the past two seasons, David has played in just 87 major league games during that time. Freese, who turns 28 in April, was first called up from the minors in late September of 2009. He went on to hit an encouraging .323 with seven RBIs in 17 games that year.
The young third baseman earned a starting spot in the St. Louis infield heading into 2010, and, through the first 70 games, he posted impressive numbers of .296/.361/.404 with four homers, 36 RBIs, and 21 walks. However, his success came to an abrupt end when he was placed on the 15-day DL late in June due to a deep bone bruise. Freese was later transferred to the 60-day DL because of significant soft tissue damage, officially ending his season. Along with his August reconstructive right ankle surgery, Freese underwent a cleanup procedure on his left ankle that was surgically repaired in 2009.
There is no doubt in my mind that Freese’s injury last year was at least somewhat of a factor in the Cardinals’ second half collapse. His extended time on the disabled list exposed veteran Felipe Lopez, who proved to be a defensive liability by committing 10 errors (Many of them costly) in 58 games at the hot corner. Lopez’s struggles ultimately led to his release and the team’s August trade for Pedro Feliz from Houston. Both players are currently free agents.
Recent news regarding the health of Freese has been extremely positive, something Cards fans love to hear. The rehabilitation process is ahead of schedule, and things are going smoothly. While Freese is optimistic about the upcoming season, he plans to take things slow, which is the smart decision.
"I’m excited. I’m definitely happy where we’re at. I don’t see myself as behind, but I think cautious is a better term for it, as far as Spring Training. It’s different being out on the field than being here indoors and stuff. I’m going to get there early, probably right at the beginning of February, and get out on the field. We’re definitely going to take it slow."
To this point, David Freese’s career has been defined by injuries rather than his tremendous upside, which is really quite a shame. As of right now, he projects to be the starter on opening day for the Redbirds in 2011. Come Spring training, I think we will have a much better idea of whether or not this will be the case.
Even with the addition of new shortstop Ryan Theriot, David Freese figures to be a pivotal part of the Cardinals infield, offensively and defensively. If he is able to make a full recovery from these ankle injuries that have plagued his short career, he will only continue to get better. With his control at the plate that we have seen glimpses of during the last two years, he, along with Theriot, could be the missing piece to the puzzle that was the Cardinals offense in 2010.
Regardless of how this situation plays out over the next few months and eventually the next year, the fact that John Mozeliak did not sign a veteran to provide insurance at third base must mean that the team is confident in Freese. In a worst case scenario, Tyler Greene is available as a back-up/utility player.