ST. LOUIS — Third baseman David Freese was determined to make the St. Louis Cardinals' home opener his Opening Day.
Freese got his wish Monday when he was activated before the Cardinals lopened their home schedule with a 13-4 loss to the Cincinnati Reds. Ryan Jackson was optioned to Class AAA Memphis to accommodate Freese's addition to the roster.
"The few days I had in Memphis went about as good as they could have gone," said Freese, who was 0-for-3 with a strikeout after batting .333 (4-for-12) with two doubles and four RBIs in a three-game rehab stint. "I did plenty to prove that I warranted (a chance) to come back here and get in that lineup today."
Freese, who was on the disabled list with a strained lower back, said he has felt good for "about a week." He has kept in daily contact with trainer Greg Hauck, General Manger John Mozeliak and manager Mike Matheny.
"They decided, instead of getting ABs down in Jupiter, head to Memphis," Freese said. "I was ready to play (at least) five innings. I hit there and got going."
Freese injured his back falling into the stands while chasing a foul popup during a spring training game. He didn't want to go on the disabled list, but in retrospect, he said it was the best move.
"When they put me on the DL, it gave me a few days to actually not do much, just kind of rest," he said. "I got on a good program in the weight room and made sure the back healed up.
"I only had a few days in Memphis, but I left there (Sunday) feeling great in the box and in the field. I got to run around a little bit on the basepaths and we had a good day offensively."
Pitcher Adam Wainwright said Freese's presence gives the opposing pitcher another concern.
"He makes our lineup very deep," he said. "He's a guy who can hit for power, doubles. He's a very tough at-bat. He has a great plate approach. He knows the strike zone really well, and that makes it tougher on the pitcher. ... He's very tough to pitch against."
Freese isn't sure whether Matheny will employ a cautious approach in terms of playing time.
"That's up to him," Freese said. "I remember when Tony (La Russa) was managing and I wasn't in the lineup. I'd go run in there and say, 'Why am I not in the lineup?' He would pull the drawer out and say, 'See these lineup cards? They're in my drawer.
"You learn and you just roll with it. I hope I'm in there from here on out. We'll see how it goes."
Matheny was glad Freese was available and didn't sound as though he was inclined to use him judiciously.
"You head into the spring with the expectation of having everybody ready, and David's part of that plan," Matheny said. "Watching him go down and getting good reports and hearing that he feels great is just another boost to our team. It gives us more depth.
"If he wasn't 100 percent, he wouldn't be here. So he's ready to go. We're excited to go out and watch him do his thing. We'll anticipate the reports we're getting are good. We look forward to seeing what we have and seeing how he feels. But we wouldn't have brought him up if we didn't feel he was ready right now."
Freese said Opening Day in St. Louis is something "I don't ever want to miss."
"I know one day it's going to come to an end," he said. "But as many times as I can be a part of this special day, I'm down for it.
"It's all about soaking it in. It's kind of the same feeling as the playoffs. Everybody around the country knows what a special day it is for the Cardinals home opener. To be a part of this, not only as a fan, but to put on the jersey and get in the trucks and do the whole deal, it's special. Coming up in the minors, being a Cardinal, I think every player dreams about this day."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at email@example.com or 239-2665.