St. Louis Cardinals third baseman David Freese and shortstop Felipe Lopez celebrate after the Cardinals 9-5 victory over the Los Angeles Angels in a baseball game Friday, May 21, 2010, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) By Jeff Roberson
JUPITER, Fla. (AP) -- St. Louis is limiting third baseman David Freese during early workouts this spring after injuries shortened what the Cardinals had hoped would be the third baseman's breakout season last year.
As had been the plan entering spring training, Freese didn't field as many grounders as other position players in defensive drills Sunday. He did end one of the corner infield drills by making a diving stop on a one-hopper to his left.
"I'm pointed ahead, which is where I wanted to be at this point," Freese said. "Everything is going real well."
Ankle injuries limited Freese to 70 games last season, during which he hit .296 with four home runs and 36 RBIs. The injuries caused him to miss the final two months of the season.
"I think one of our tough breaks last year was that he didn't have a second half of the year, because he's a difference maker when he plays," manager Tony La Russa said. "If he is healthy, he can't help but be productive."
A car crash in 2009 started Freese's ankle problems. During last season's second ankle-related minor league rehab stint, Freese turned his right ankle badly enough to require reconstructive surgery in August. A month later, in September, Freese had surgery to remove a bone spur from his left ankle.
Freese arrived at the Cardinals' spring training workouts Monday, five days earlier than required. He doesn't show any signs of lingering effects from the procedures and says he isn't experiencing anything other than the normal soreness he'd regularly feel this time of year.
The weekend workouts -- the first of the spring for Cardinals position players -- didn't offer any surprises.
"He's just being smart," La Russa said.
The Cardinals are also asking free agent acquisition Lance Berkman to be smart when it comes to his spring workload.
The 35-year-old former Astro and Yankee hit .248 with 14 homers and 58 RBIs while battling a sore knee last season -- his worst numbers since his rookie season in 1999.
"We focus on all of them, but going in you pay some special attention to guys who are coming in with a little history," La Russa said. "Last year we were watching (Jaime) Garcia because he was coming off of the year before, but you can get on that list in a minute if you tweak something."
Case in point, Nick Punto.
The former Minnesota Twin, who will likely serve a utility role that includes spelling Freese, went through Sunday's workouts despite a sore right groin.
"I'm going to see the team doctors and we'll go from there," Punto said. "It's nothing that's going to hold me back."
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