PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) - 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.
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