JUPITER, Fla. -- Due to a lingering back injury, David Freese will begin the season on the disabled list, the Cardinals announced on Tuesday. The news comes one day after Freese characterized being ready by Opening Day as a "possibility."
An MRI on Monday identified inflammation in Freese's lower back. The third baseman had an anti-inflammatory shot shortly after to address that issue, but that also meant he would have to stay off the field until at least Thursday. The Cardinals wrap up their spring schedule Friday and begin the regular season Monday.
That left insufficient time for Freese to get his body conditioned for the demands of the regular season. He has not played nine innings in a game this spring.
"At first, frustration kicks in and you don't really understand the situation," Freese said. "But when you think about it ... it's more reassuring to myself and the team that I can get out there and play the rest of the way. ... I wanted to get back out there and obviously it didn't work out. We're going to take the more cautious approach and get this thing right. It's about the team. I'm not worth anything unless I'm healthy and unless I'm out there."
Because Freese last played in a Grapefruit League game on March 22, the Cardinals can backdate his 15-day DL stint nine days, meaning that the third baseman would be eligible to return April 7. General manager John Mozeliak said that the club is targeting the April 8 home opener as a return date for Freese.
In conjunction with moving Freese to the DL, St. Louis has brought Ryan Jackson back from Minor League camp and will give him a place on the 25-man roster until Freese returns. Matt Carpenter is slated to be the team's third baseman during Freese's absence, meaning that Daniel Descalso will start at second.
Freese has taken only 16 at-bats since he bruised his tailbone after tumbling into the stands trying to make a catch on March 4. Only six of those at-bats have come since March 14.
"It's just more of a practical matter in the sense that he hasn't played nine innings all spring," Mozeliak said. "He hasn't gotten a lot of at-bats over the last two weeks in an aggregate sense. Looking ahead at what's best for David is to get him some at-bats next week where he could get a lot of work in."
Freese will remain in Jupiter to get those at-bats during the Cardinals' extended spring training. He hopes to resume some of his workout program Wednesday and slowly build up from there.
"Today it feels better," he said Tuesday morning. "Obviously, the inflammation should start going down pretty quick here. I think the big thing is to remember when I feel good in a couple days, to understand that I have still some more time to get ready and get out on these back fields and play some games."
Freese becomes the third player the Cardinals have had to move to the DL, joining starter Chris Carpenter and shortstop Rafael Furcal. Carpenter and Furcal are out for the season. Closer Jason Motte, though not placed on the DL yet, is also expected to begin the season on it.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less