ST. LOUIS -- David Freese expressed confidence on Friday regarding the pace of his rehabilitation from right ankle surgery. The Cardinals' third baseman said that he has every expectation that he'll be ready to play before Spring Training 2011 starts.

Freese, 27, was playing in a Minor League rehabilitation game as he attempted to come back from a right ankle injury when he reinjured the ankle, requiring season-ending surgery. Since the August operation, he said things have been progressing very well.

"The way we're looking at it now is, I'll be full-bore well before Spring Training," Freese said. "I wish it didn't happen, but it's better [to do this] now than the middle of October or something. We've got a plan together, and it's going to get me ready way before Spring Training. We're all positive about the outcome."

Freese had a checkup on the ankle last week, and at that time, he underwent a separate procedure for a "cleanup" of his left ankle. He strongly downplayed that operation, though.

"It's been a week and I'm already walking on it fine," he said. "It was just a cleanup. I didn't even get a rehab plan for it."

Freese was walking with a boot on his right ankle, but had that removed during his checkup. He now wears an air cast when he's not going through rehab. However, he was moving around the clubhouse reasonably well without the cast on Friday afternoon.

At third, Greene becoming best option

ST. LOUIS -- Just a week ago in Atlanta, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa expressed a reluctance to give Tyler Greene any significant playing time at third base. It wasn't fair to the young infielder, the manager said, and it wasn't fair to the pitchers either.

That has since changed. With Felipe Lopez and Pedro Feliz both slumping, Greene made his second straight start at third base on Friday night, and it won't be surprising if he gets more. Still, La Russa argued that it's not fair to evaluate Greene too strictly on his play at third. Greene is by trade a shortstop, and a good one.

"Mostly it's because our two veterans are struggling," La Russa said. "Tyler is here. You make it clear to him, which I did, that the evaluation of him as a Major Leaguer is not going to be affected adversely by what happens when you're not prepared to play a position. He's an athlete, and if he competes like he does, it's all to the good.

"I mostly did not want to do it, because I was hoping that one of Pedro or Felipe would take off. But if they're struggling, one thing that you can do is [use] one guy that's energetic and could give you a spark. But I'm going to get him out in the seventh or eighth with a lead."

La Russa takes issue with Clark's comments

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals manager Tony La Russa took exception on Friday to comments made by former Cardinal Jack Clark on a local radio station. Clark called the 2010 Cardinals "quitters," a characterization that clearly rubbed La Russa the wrong way.

"I'm really tired of watching the effort, that's for sure," Clark told 101 ESPN Radio in St. Louis on Thursday. "I'm not seeing a lack of [effort], I'm seeing a pathetic effort. These Cards fans deserve much better. That's just awful. They won't admit it, that they're quitters. If you can't put a better effort out there on the field, take 'em all out, back up the truck, ship 'em all out and get somebody in here that wants to play baseball."

Asked about the comments, La Russa first said that he prefers not to engage in a war of words.

"We've got enough problems trying to win games, and we're exposed enough for not playing better that we don't need to start having back-and-forths with anybody," La Russa said. "Because the essence of my job and our team's job is to compete this year. If we're not competing well enough, then that's where you're going to catch the heat. And you don't need anything else."

With that said, though, La Russa went on to express his feelings about what Clark had to say.

"I just don't feel like Jack has had the kind of spotless career where he can make judgments like that," La Russa said. "Whether it's our team, whether it's players, pitchers, whatever.

"I think that [quitting accusation] is real personal. That's why I'm saying something about it. That's a very offensive quote to make. I respect Jack a lot, because I think he did a good job of pulling his career together. But he had times where the evaluation from his peers -- and I wasn't his peer -- but [the evaluations by] his peers and his bosses were less than the best. So I'm disappointed that he didn't take some of that past experience, especially guys that play should know how hard this game is.

"I definitely understand if the media, the fans [don't realize that]. But a guy who has played or pitched, this is a very tough game to play. It doesn't always fall into place.

"You especially know that that's a much bigger cut than to say you're a bad pitcher or player, manager or coach. Then you're just not good enough. But when you start getting at the integrity of the competition, that's [especially bothersome]. But this is America. You've can have your opinion. We've got free speech. Have at it."

Worth noting

The Cardinals were represented when former Texas A&M pitcher Barret Loux threw on Friday. Loux was a D-backs draftee, but did not sign after Arizona found troublesome information in his medical reports. A Cardinals official indicated Friday that the club's interest level in Loux is low due to the medical concerns, but scouting director Jeff Luhnow said that the club did attend the workout. ... Once the Pacific Coast League Championship Series ends -- which could be as early as Friday night -- the Cardinals could see Minor League reinforcements arrive as soon as the next day. ... Albert Pujols was presented with the Babe Ruth Home Run Award prior to Friday's game, in recognition of his leading the Major Leagues in homers in 2009.