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Freese says he'll be ready by the spring thaw

Cardinals third baseman David Freese told mlb.com that he's progressing well after season-ending ankle surgery and that he plans to be ready to play by the start of spring training.

"I went out to Vail, [Colo.], about a week and a half ago, and Dr. Clanton cleared me to be full-go and take it as it comes," Freese told mlb.com's Matthew Leach. "I'm not running yet, just trying to build up as much strength as possible. But that's going to start happening after Christmas. From what they're telling me, the running is the easiest part of the whole process."

That's good news since the Redbirds didn't do anything to bolster the third base picture so far this off-season. And, with a maxed-out budget, it doesn't look likely that they're going to do anything in the couple of months left before players report to Jupiter, Fla.

"I'm definitely happy where we're at," Freese told Leach. "I don't see myself as behind. But I think cautious is a better term for it, as far as Spring Training. It's different being out on the field than being here indoors and stuff. I'm going to get there early, probably right at the beginning of February, and get out on the field. We're definitely going to take it slow."

If Freese can't answer the bell, Tyler Greene appears to be the next guy on the depth chart. Of his 92 major league games over the past two seasons, Greene has played 22 of them -- a total of 101 innings -- at the hot corner. That's not a lot of time in the field. But Greene is more of a question mark at the plate.

While Freese is a .299 hitter in the majors with five homers in 271 at bats over the last two seasons, Greene is a .222 hitter in the majors with four homers in 212 at bats.

Next on the list is Allen Craig who has spent some time at third base in the minors. But there's a reason why the Cardinals have tried to convert him to an outfielder.

Craig, after a terrible start last season in the majors, managed to raise his batting average to .246 with four homers in 124 at bats. He made two appearances for a total of 10 innings at third base while making 34 appearances in the outfield covering 203 2/3 innings.

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