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Freese, not the loss of Wainwright, worries me most about 2011

I admit that the loss of an ace quality starting pitcher is pretty bad news.

But I am much more disturbed about the David Freese situation these days than I am worried about the St. Louis pitching.

The Cardinals have some viable alternatives in the rotation who will at least give them the opportunity to win when they take the hill. But Freese's spring debut at third base has twice been pushed back already. Three weeks before opening day and the Redbirds don't know with any sort of reasonable certainty who will start for them at the hot corner once the season starts.

I wasn't really excited about former Twins infielder Nick Punto playing at third on a regular basis if Freese couldn't go. But he went down to a sports hernia and isn't expected to be ready to go until at least some time in May.

The next most likely option is Tyler Greene, a player who hasn't been able to stick at the major league level. Greene's got some versatility, if not a great hot corner bat. But he seems to be wilting under the pressue of possibly being counted on as a starter. He's been very tight in the early going.

Obviously, Wainwright is a much more valuable player to the Cardinals in the grand scheme of things. Nobody would train Waino for Freese, Tommy John surgery or not. But the Cardinals have a decent pitching staff even without him and a starting hurler pitches only once every fifth day. But a third baseman should be a presence in the lineup almost every game his team plays. So. without Freese, the Cardinals are going to feel the pain a lot more often than they'll miss Wainwright.