PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) — David Freese said his back still feels a bit stiff, but he didn’t show any signs of lingering issues when he returned to the field for the first time in a week.
Freese led off the fourth inning with a long home run and the St. Louis Cardinals went on to beat the New York Mets 3-2 on Thursday.
Freese had been out since March 14 with back stiffness stemming from a hard fall he took while chasing a foul ball. The 2011 World Series MVP played five innings at third base.
“It’s a little stiff, but I think that was expected,” Freese said. “It’s fine. I’ll keep going and get ready.”
Freese’s home run came on a fastball from Mets starter Jeremy Hefner, who was starting in place of Shaun Marcum. Marcum received a cortisone shot in his shoulder Tuesday because of what he called tightness, and he said he expects to miss just one turn in the rotation.
Freese said he was a little surprised to get such a solid swing on a pitch so quickly in his return. He said he doesn’t feel too far behind.
“I got a good swing on it,” Freese said. “There were a couple guys smashing them today.”
Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright got off to a smooth start, allowing just two runners through the first three innings. He made some adjustments after surrendering a two-run triple to Matt den Dekker in the fourth.
Wainwright gave up two runs on three hits with three walks and three strikeouts in 4 2-3 innings.
He said he was experimenting a little in his next-to-last start before opening day.
“I’m right where I need to be,” Wainwright said. “I had only walked two guys all spring training, and I think I walked more today than I had all spring, but today I wanted to work on a lot of things — my changeup.”
NOTES: Cardinals C Yadier Molina and OF Carlos Beltran received an extra day off to rest from what manager Mike Matheny called “a strenuous travel schedule” while playing in the World Baseball Classic. They are expected to work out Friday and return to the lineup Saturday.