Cardinals 3, Mets 2

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.”

Mets infielder Justin Turner also got a hit in his return from

injury after an ankle sprain Saturday kept him from the lineup. He

had a pinch-hit single in the sixth, then showed he was OK by

running from first to third on a hit.

”He ran the bases this morning, and he looked great,” Mets

manager Terry Collins said. ”Justin is ready to go.”

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.