FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) - David Freese played third base, ran the bases and had a big day at the plate. Not bad for his first game since a pair of ankle surgeries.
Freese had two hits and three RBI in St. Louis' 10-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Monday, an encouraging sign during a rough spring for the Cardinals.
"It felt good to get out there," Freese said. "To be honest, I could have gone 0-for-3 or 0-for-4, and I would have felt the same way. I feel good right now. I just have to keep progressing. The basepaths is what the key is. I just have to keep pushing myself, running around the bases."
Freese's ankle problems started with a 2009 car crash. During last season's second ankle-related minor league rehab stint, he turned his right ankle badly enough to require reconstructive surgery in August. A month later, he had surgery to remove a bone spur from his left ankle.
Freese hit .294 with four homers and 36 RBI in 70 games last season. St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said it was good to write his name back in the lineup, and he also plans to do it on opening day.
"He had good execution," La Russa said. "It was his first time out there in a long time. If he's healthy, then he's our third baseman. He will be."
Jake Westbrook allowed one run and four hits in 32â„3 innings for the Cardinals. The 33-year-old right-hander made 33 starts last season for Cleveland and St. Louis after being sidelined for much of the previous two years due to reconstructive elbow surgery.
"Last year, I was coming off not having pitched a big league ballgame, as it were, in 18 months," Westbrook said. "Now I'm going out there and concentrating on getting ready for the year and not worrying about my arm.
"I'm out there concentrating on putting the ball where I want to. After what I've gone through in '08 and '09 to not have to worry about your arm, that's a huge weight off your mind. You can concentrate on other aspects of being a good pitcher."