ST. LOUIS (AP) — David Freese's six-RBI bonanza this week backed up the St. Louis Cardinals' assessment that he belongs in the lineup. And his no-nonsense attitude off the field is repaying the team for sticking with him last winter.
A DUI arrest in December served as a wake-up call for the 27-year-old rookie third baseman. He said he has sworn off alcohol, concentrating instead on driving the ball and being an all-around success story in his hometown.
Freese's big day against the Braves on Thursday was highlighted by the most RBIs from a Cardinals rookie since major league baseball established rookie qualifications in 1957.
"I'm just having a blast here," Freese said. "To have this opportunity is pretty special."
Freese entered a treatment program shortly after his arrest for a blood-alcohol reading by authorities that was nearly three times the legal limit of 0.08. He's given the Cardinals no reason to question his dedication.
Manager Tony La Russa has said several times he's been impressed with Freese's mental toughness, beyond his playing skills. The team envisions him as a long-term solution at third base, and Freese has been clutch at the plate in the opening month, going 9 for 17 with runners in scoring position through Thursday.
"I think he's got the necessary toughness to play in this league, and that takes in a lot of territory," La Russa said. "And I don't think he gets carried away, which is another sign of a consistent player."
The Cardinals acquired Freese from the Padres after the 2007 season for Jim Edmonds. Freese went to suburban Lafayette High School, and his mother was watching when Freese hit his second career homer and first at Busch Stadium.
"Just to get a chance to put this uniform on and play with these guys, play under Tony, it's a thrill," Freese said. "To think I'm actually doing this is pretty cool.
"But they put me out there to do a job and that's what I've got to keep thinking, go out there and produce."
A two-game run of eight RBIs on Wednesday and Thursday gave Freese 14 for the year, third-best on the team despite batting seventh or eighth most of the time.
His six-RBI game came in the five slot after Albert Pujols got his first day off of the season and came on two big swings to the opposite field: a three-run homer off the right-field foul pole in the first inning and a three-run double off the right-field wall in the fifth.
Earlier this month, Freese had a three-hit game against Oliver Perez and the Mets. Entering Friday, he already had seven multi-hit games.
After some early shaky times in the field, Freese has made several nice plays down the line.
"Being the rookie in the lineup it's different, but there's where I want to be," Freese said. "They understand what I've been going through, all these guys have gone through it before."
Freese, who hit 26 homers for Triple-A Memphis last year, said he's learned from veteran teammates not to get too excited because there's always another game. His scrape with the law reminds him there's much worse things than striking out with the game on the line.
"I don't let too much stuff get to me," Freese sail "I don't know if it's because I've been through some stuff or whatnot, but I've always been like that.
"My parents have always taught me there's always tomorrow, and no matter whether you have a good day or a bad day you've just got to stay even keel."