ST. LOUIS – Cardinals third baseman David Freese will have surgery on his broken left hand and is expected to miss nine to 12 weeks, his latest extended setback.
Freese was hit in the hand by a pitch from Atlanta reliever Scott Linebrink in the sixth inning Sunday. Freese was batting .356 with two homers and 14 RBIs in 25 games.
Freese was put on the 15-day disabled list Monday and infielder-outfielder Allen Craig was activated from the DL.
"We'll make do," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said. "It's just a tough break for David. We're going to miss him. Brutal."
Freese's surgery Tuesday will likely require a metal plate to speed the healing. The Cardinals hope Freese will be back in the lineup before August.
"Things happen. That's all I can say," Freese said. "Obviously it's happened continuously for a couple years now, but I'm not going to look in the past. I'm going to keep going, keep plugging away."
Craig, who can play all four corner positions, was activated before the start of a four-game series against the Florida Marlins. General manager John Mozeliak said Craig would likely have been activated in any case, but he's down the list of potential third base fill-ins because he hasn't gotten that much work at third.
Daniel Descalso started at third Monday night and La Russa can also use Nick Punto and Tyler Greene, although Punto was hobbled by tightness in his left hamstring after getting removed in the fourth inning Sunday. Albert Pujols played third base for the first time since 2002 after Freese's injury on Sunday but is unlikely to see any more action there.
"Probably not something we would like to do," Mozeliak said. "But clearly it's always an option."
Freese was limited to 70 games last season by injuries to both ankles, and didn't play after June 28. He underwent surgery on the right ankle on Aug. 5 after being injured running the bases during a rehab assignment, and had arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur from his left ankle on Sept. 8.
The Cardinals were 16-12 and in first place in the NL Central, having already absorbed 20-game winner Adam Wainwright's elbow reconstructive surgery in spring training and a lengthy DL stay for second baseman Skip Schumaker, who's still two to four weeks away with an elbow injury.
"This is a hard game and it's a long season," Mozeliak said. "To be where we are after a month, it's a good slot."
The Cardinals had trouble filling the void after Freese was hurt last year, fading to second place.
"Internally, we'll just have to handle it," Mozeliak said.
Descalso has been a plus defensively at third and though he was hitting just .226 his on-base percentage was .358 with six RBIs in 53 at-bats. He has little power and was batting seventh against the Marlins.
"I feel like I'm ready," Descalso said. "The last couple of weeks or so I've been getting quite a few at-bats and I feel like I'm playing pretty good defense at third and I'm just going to try to keep it rolling."
Craig, who has better power potential, was 0 for 6 in a two-game injury rehabilitation assignment from a groin injury at Double-A Springfield. He was batting .313 with a home run and seven RBIs in 11 games before getting hurt on April 16.
Craig said he's been ready for a few days.
"I want to be on the field, that's the most important thing, and I don't really care where it is," Craig said. "I feel good, ready to go."
Greene, who started at second base on Monday, was batting .250 with one homer and five RBIs in 28 at-bats.
Punto missed most of the opening month recovering from a sports hernia and at this point is not being considered an everyday player.
"That's something we have to monitor," Mozeliak said. "Obviously he's not a guy we can just throw out there for seven straight days and think we're going to get away with it."