ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals have decided, for now at least, not to place outfielder Matt Holliday on the 15-day disabled list as he recuperates from an emergency appendectomy.

Manager Tony La Russa said Tuesday that the club believes Holliday will return soon enough to justify keeping him on the active roster even while he's unavailable for the time being.

"I just think he's making enough progress now [that] we think he'll be back before 15 days," La Russa said. "So we're just going to keep going until we get him back. ... It appears that he's going to be ready before the disabled period -- quite a bit before the disabled period. He's a valuable guy."

Holliday rode an exercise bike on Monday, his first real physical exertion since the surgery on April 1. On Tuesday, he ramped his work up a bit, playing catch and running. He may swing a bat on Wednesday, and he expects to accompany the club when it leaves for San Francisco on Thursday.

"So far, so good," Holliday said. "I think the big test will be swinging."

Laird makes season debut behind plate

ST. LOUIS -- Gerald Laird received his first start of the season for the Cardinals on Tuesday night, but not because anything was wrong with regular catcher Yadier Molina.

Laird, who signed with St. Louis over the winter, spent the past two seasons with Detroit. He's regarded as an exemplary defensive catcher, though he's struggled at the plate in recent years. He had a solid spring offensively, however.

"We've played four in a row and there's a day game tomorrow," manager Tony La Russa said. "So it's a good day to give him a start and give Yadi a rest."

Molina felt a bit of a sting when he was jammed by a pitch in his first at-bat of Monday's game against the Pirates. He stayed in the game, though, and came through it just fine. He is slated to return to the starting lineup on Wednesday afternoon for the series finale with Pittsburgh.

Freese getting a lot of action early on

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals manager Tony La Russa loves to call on his "shock troops" for day games following night games, but he may pass on one opportunity to do so on Wednesday.

Third baseman David Freese might make a third straight start for the Cards' series finale against Pittsburgh. That wouldn't necessarily be big news, but in Freese's case it's certainly worth noting. La Russa had estimated during Spring Training that Freese would likely only play two out of three games in the early going as he continues to come back from two ankle operations last year.

Things have gone very well physically for Freese, though, so he might get a third start in a row in advance of Thursday's off-day.

"I hope," Freese said. "We'll see."

Worth noting

Following Thursday's off-day, the Cardinals will roll over their starting pitchers for their weekend series in San Francisco. Jake Westbrook will pitch Friday, Jaime Garcia Saturday and Kyle Lohse on Sunday, all with five days of rest. ... Manager Tony La Russa said Tuesday that the club has no plans to add an eighth relief pitcher in advance of its 10-day western road trip. That had initially been a consideration, but with the Cardinals already playing down a man due to Matt Holliday's appendectomy, removing another bench player from the roster is not feasible. ... The Cardinals released their Minor League rosters on Tuesday in advance of Thursday's season openers. The club's top two prospects, pitcher Shelby Miller and infielder Zack Cox, will both begin the year at high Class A Palm Beach of the Florida State League.