If you can’t play, you can’t stay.
Apparently this is the message the St. Louis Cardinals sent to third baseman David Freese on Sunday as the 25-year-old was among the very first 15 players cut from big league camp.
The odds-on favorite to seize the interim starting third base job during Troy Glaus’ rehab reported to spring training with a lingering Achilles tendon injury as the result of a January automobile accident. Through Sunday, he had a grand total of one at-bat, during which he struck out.
This opened the door for a long-shot candidate, Joe Mather, to step in and take what appears to be a most sizeable lead. The club also has several other players in camp who can man the hot corner defensively, including Brendan Ryan, Brian Barden and Tyler Greene.
As a non-roster player, nothing would preclude Freese from appearing in major league spring training games later this month – but he will both need to prove his health and demonstrate results first. The Cardinals feel he can best accomplish that in minor league camp.
The other non-battery cut of the 15 was fellow third baseman Brett Wallace. Unlike Freese, the organization’s first-round draft pick last June was not expected to see considerable time this spring and he did not. Wallace went 1-for-6 over five games in his first big league camp.
All 15 players reassigned to minor league camp were non-roster invitees (NRIs). The other 13 consist of four catchers and nine pitchers, including four lefties and five right-handers.
The four left-handers shipped out are Justin Fiske, Brad Furnish, Katsuhiko Maekawa and Ian Ostlund. The five right-handers include Hyang-nam Choi, Shaun Garceau, Trey Hearne, Tyler Herron and Francisco Samuel.
The catchers cut are Tony Cruz, Luis De La Cruz, Steven Hill and Justin Knoedler.
Following the moves, the Cardinals now have 46 players in camp, including the 35 on the 40-man roster and 11 NRIs.
The 11 remaining NRIs are pitchers Clayton Mortensen, Adam Ottavino (with Team Italy in the WBC), Fernando Salas, Jess Todd and P.J. Walters. Catchers are Bryan Anderson and Matt Pagnozzi, infielders Joe Thurston and Allen Craig along with outfielders Jon Jay and Colby Rasmus. A February 26th report by MLB.com that pitcher Mark McCormick received an invite was apparently not carried out, as he is not listed on the current roster and has not pitched.
Pitchers and catchers report to minor league camp on Monday with position players set to arrive on Wednesday.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Catch his Cardinals commentary daily at his blog, The Cardinal Nation.
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