CINCINNATI • It wasn't until he left a Cincinnati hospital and was in a car back to the team hotel late Saturday night that Cardinals third baseman David Freese heard the results of a higher-definition scan of his injured left wrist.
There were no fractures found in the bones that make up the joint, and Freese was cleared to hit as aggressively as he could tolerate Sunday. He expects to be in the lineup tonight for the start of a three-game series in Pittsburgh.
"No question," Freese said. "It's good to know there is nothing in there that could cause a problem later."
There were some moments of anxiety in the car before that news.
That is nothing new.
Freese was hit on the left wrist by a fastball in the seventh inning of Friday's game. It was the fifth time this season that Freese has been hit by a pitch, and the second time in less than a month. Freese estimated that he's had to duck away pitches high and in on his hands five or six times in recent games.
He's not alone. Catcher Yadier Molina as been hit twice by pitches in the past 10 games, and he's had to dodge several others. Some of the clubhouse has noticed the trend, and they're not surprised. A scouting report is out and opponents are trying to keep several Cardinals, like leading hitter Molina, from extending his swing.
"Pitchers are trying to tie up hitters," Freese said. "The last thing they want to do is leave the ball out over (the plate). They try to get us back on our heels so they can go soft away and use that outside edge of the plate. Sometimes balls get away. That's part of the game."
Freese was able to hit off a tee and soft toss Sunday. Manager Mike Matheny said if needed the third baseman could have pinch hit. The Cardinals put Freese through several exams to be sure that a hairline fracture or other damage was not the source of discomfort that continued Sunday. Molina returned to the lineup Sunday after taking a day to rest a tender and swollen ankle. Matheny said the catcher was still bothered by it "but grinding."
When asked what he thought of the recent run of inside pitches he's dodged, Molina reversed the view and said the Cardinals would do the same.
"When some hitters hit our pitchers well we're going to try to do something different," Molina said. "That doesn't mean we won't hit them or we are going to hit them. We're going to pitch inside. We're going to pitch away. We're going to try to do some different things to get him out because he's had success. For me, I just try to do my job. Whatever they're doing, I don't care. I'm trying to take a good at-bat."
MATHENY: BACK IN THE CROUCH
After making a double switch to get Fernando Salas in to pitch the bottom of the ninth, Matheny had another question for home-plate umpire Brian Runge. Could he warm up the pitcher? Tony Cruz was getting his gear on and Matheny was available to get back in the crouch, where he spent all of his major-league career. He didn't want warming up the pitcher to count as a visit and Runge gave him the OK.
The pitches "came in a little faster than I remember then," Matheny said.
VOTTO SET FOR RETURN
Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto is scheduled to start a rehab assignment with Class A Dayton on Tuesday, manager Dusty Baker confirmed. Votto, the 2010 National League MVP, is on the disabled list after requiring two knee operations in the past six weeks. He could rejoin the major-league lineup as early as this weekend "if everything goes well," Baker stressed. The Reds are 27-14 since Votto and his .342 average went on the DL.
HOLLIDAY SWINGS FOR CYCLE
When Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday took his at-bat in the ninth inning against Reds reliever Jose Arredondo, he already had a triple and a double. He was a home run shy of the cycle at one of baseball's most-inviting ballparks for home-run hitters. He took a vicious cut on Arredondo's first pitch and acknowledged later that not only did he take one swing at the cycle, he devoted the whole duel with Arredondo to it.
"I gave myself the whole at-bat," Holliday said, laughing. "He didn’t give me anything to hit. I was going for it. I didn’t get many pitches."
Holliday settled -- if settled is the word -- for an RBI single that added to the Cardinals 8-2 victory. Holliday has never hit for the cycle in the majors. The last Cardinal to hit for the cycle was Mark Grudzielanek, who did so in April 2005 at Busch Stadium II.
EYE ON LOS ANGELES
The Dodgers entered Sunday a half a game behind the Cardinals for the league's second wild card, and their proximity made it impossible for the Cardinals to ignore LA's addition of Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto in Saturday's nine-player swap with Boston that included taking on $260 million in salary by LA. "They're in this thing and it affects what the playoffs look like," Matheny said. "You can't help but notice that even as you start hearing about it from the beginning. It's a big deal."
LARKIN A CARD?
In 1998, then-Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty had a discussion with his Reds’ counterpart about a deal involving Cincinnati shortstop Barry Larkin. In exchange for the All-Star and 1995 National League MVP, the Reds wanted J. D. Drew and Rick Ankiel. The trade talk “didn’t go very far,” Jocketty recalled when asked about it Saturday.
Larkin spent his entire 19-year career with the Reds, who retired the Hall of Famer’s No. 11 during a pre-game ceremony Saturday. He did, however, ponder about playing for a rival.
“I remember sitting in the dugout once at the old place (Busch Stadium II) and looking out at the field, at Ozzie Smith there at shortstop, and thinking this would be the place I’d play some day, and with Ozzie leaving (after 1997) that seemed to be the chance,” Larking told The Post-Dispatch last season. “I didn’t know if it would work. Being the NL Central and being rivals made it tough. … I thought (it was) something I wanted to do at some point in my career.”
Several Cardinals have championed what they call “High Socks Sundays” this season, urging teammates to show the ringtails on their stirrups every Sunday. Outfielder Jon Jay had t-shirts made to remind them and on Sunday most Cardinals sported a tee that read, “#HighSockSundays,” a reference to a Twitter the players use. … The Cardinals held their annual fantasy football draft Sunday night at their Pittsburgh hotel. Pitcher Jake Westbrook is the defending champ of the league.