David Freese injury: St. Louis Cardinals' third baseman could begin a rehab stint Monday

USA TODAY Sports

David Freese is close to a rehab stint, according to Mike Matheny. (Via Derrick Goold.)

The St. Louis Cardinals' strangest offseason experiment is a little closer to fruition, if recent reports on David Freese's back injury are any indication. He's set to begin a rehab stint in AAA Memphis as soon as Thursday, which would put him on track to return early next week. Which means the Cardinals' starting second baseman--that is, Matt Carpenter--can leave his natural position of third base and begin turning double plays.

The offensive upgrade is pretty obvious--David Freese is a significantly better hitter than Daniel Descalso--but some small, significant part of the Cardinals' season hinges on just how much that arbitrage leaves them behind on defense. (Carpenter, for his part, has looked oddly graceful at third base in the interim.)

Which is interesting enough for me. But if you need more reasons to care, remember that this mini-disabled-list stint was also available to the Cardinals for Carlos Beltran and his broken toe. Instead they kept playing him in the Grapefruit League and brought him north with the 25-man roster. If he slumps to start the season, or looks especially slow in the outfield, expect someone to remember that.

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