9 a.m. Tuesday update:
The Cardinals have elected to place third baseman David Freese on the 15-day disabled list to start the season. The assignment will be backdated to March 22, his last appearance in a Grapefruit League. He will miss at least the first six days of the regular season as a result.
On Monday, both Cardinals officials and Freese insisted that "opening day had not been ruled out" for the third baseman.
By Tuesday morning, optimism had given way to pragmatism.
"I'm not worth anything if I'm not healthy and if I'm not out there," Freese said. "I'm bummed for sure. This is probably the best move. They're thinking about the big picture."
The issue that led to the Cardinals reconsidering their stance was whether Freese could be available to play a full game -- and whether that would cause another relapse of back pain, something that has happened already twice this spring. Freese has not played a full nine innings in the field yet this spring.
He made the case that he could get his swing ready for opening day. He was told that his stamina and durability was the larger concern.
"They want to make sure I can play the rest of the way," Freese said.
As detailed below, he received an injection Monday afternoon to attack inflammation in his lower back. At the earliest he could return to the field Thursday and he wasn't expected to appear in a game until then or more likely Friday.
That limited opportunity to play encouraged the Cardinals to make the call this morning to DL Freese and give him another week of spring training.
"We want to give him some time," general manager John Mozeliak said this morning. "He hasn't played nine innings all spring. He hasn't had a lot of at-bats over the past two weeks. He can get a lot of work in, remain down here, and meet us back in St. Louis."
Freese would be eligible to play in the home opener.
The Cardinals promoting Ryan Jackson from Class AAA Memphis to take Freese's spot on the opening day roster. Sam Freeman is being optioned to Class AAA Memphis.
Our earlier story on Freese and the Cardinals' health issues:
JUPITER, Fla. • Cardinals third baseman David Freese does not expect to return to the field until Thursday, at the earliest, but the results of an examination on his sore back Monday assured him that being available for opening day remains “a possibility.”
Freese received an anti-inflammatory injection into his lower back Monday afternoon and must give the shot 48 hours to work. After that period, his condition will be re-evaluated and his availability for next Monday’s opener in Arizona will be clearer. An MRI exam of his back revealed what Freese described as a buildup of inflammation near his tailbone. No damage to a disc was revealed in his back.
“The discs are fine,” said Freese, who injured his back tumbling into the stands after a foul popup March 4. This is the third time this spring the injury has sidelined him. “It’s kind of a constant aggravation, irritation, and it just hurts some times. The MRI came back encouraging.”
Outfielder Carlos Beltran, who is dealing with a hairline fracture in a toe on his right foot, would like to play in today’s game against the Mets. He has yet to appear in a major-league game since returning from the World Baseball Classic. Beltran played five innings in the field for a minor-league team Sunday and hit in the cages Monday.
The Cardinals attempted to construct a protective sheath for his toe within Beltran’s cleat, but he said that put more pressure on the toe. He said whether he can play opening day depends entirely on how much pain he can play through. He was told he cannot damage it further.
“I’m going to do whatever it takes to get back into full games,” Beltran said. “I want to be ready for opening day. There’s no doubt I’m going to be there. It’s something that is not going to go away, (so) I just need to find a way to try to do something that makes it better. ... It still bothers me.”
The Cardinals want to see Beltran this morning before playing him in the afternoon. Playing him would make it impossible to back-date any disabled list assignment to March 22. Prospect Oscar Taveras, who had four hits Monday, will remain with the major-league team as long as there is playing time available.