JUPITER, Fla. (AP) — The St. Louis Cardinals are pleased with the way David Freese has handled his personal issues.
Freese was arrested in December outside of St. Louis on a drunken-driving charge. He apologized and is still slotted to be the team's third baseman this season.
"Obviously we were very unhappy with what happened," general manager John Mozeliak said Monday. "The very next day I met with him in my office and we talked about it. I made sure he understood dealing with the alcohol problem and dealing with the legal side was more important than baseball.
"If he could do all that then there wouldn't be any disciplinary actions. And that's what he's done."
Freese, 26, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.23, nearly three times Missouri's legal limit of 0.08, when he was arrested on Dec. 12 in Maryland Heights. He immediately entered the team's employee assistance program and said he has not had a drink since.
The case still is pending.
"It was poor judgment on my part," said Freese. "But God puts things in front of you for a reason. I've definitely learned from it. I've got a great opportunity in front of me that a lot of kids would dream of having."
Freese's main competitor for the third base job is Joe Mather, who also is his close friend. They were roommates in the minor leagues, hang out off the field and their lockers in the Cardinals' spring training facility are side-by-side.
"I got to know him very well," said Mather. "It's something that happened. It's regrettable but he's definitely he's going in the right direction. You can see that by his work ethic. He's been completely sober over two months now."
Freese is trying to win a starting job for the second consecutive spring. A year ago he had a sore left ankle and although he broke camp with the Cardinals, Brian Barden was the opening day third baseman and Freese was optioned to Memphis after 11 games.
Freese had arthroscopic surgery about six weeks later to clean out debris and repair the ankle before returning in time to help Memphis win the PCL championship. He was recalled in September and was 7-for-12 to end the season.
"We'll see if David is the best," manager Tony La Russa said. "But that being said, he's impressed everybody that's seen him."
La Russa was arrested in Jupiter in March 2007 and was determined to have a blood alcohol content of 0.093 percent. Florida's legal driving limit is 0.08 percent, and La Russa later pleaded guilty to driving under the influence.
La Russa said Freese has earned "a lot of points" for the way he has responded to the setback.
"As a lot of us have told him, that kind of situation, you don't just handle it really well early, it's supposed to be handled every day," said La Russa. "His personal life is more important than his professional life, really, so he needs to take care of that."