ST. LOUIS -- David Freese and Nick Punto have both gotten off to strong starts on their Minor League rehabilitation assignments, and both infielders could be back with the Cardinals on their upcoming road trip to Baltimore and St. Petersburg. General manager John Mozeliak said Thursday that he's pleased with the progress of both players.
"Very positive," Mozeliak said. "Both came out of last night's game feeling good."
Freese played his second game on Wednesday for Triple-A Memphis, going 1-for-3 in each appearance. He has a double, a walk and a strikeout, appearing at third base for the Redbirds. Freese has been out since late April due to a broken bone in his left hand. Freese has tweeted that he expects to rejoin the Cardinals by the "end of the month," which would be no later than Thursday's game in Baltimore.
"He says everything felt great," manager Tony La Russa said. "Feet, everything. Wrist."
Punto, meanwhile, has yet to play the field for Double-A Springfield. Through three games as the S-Cards' designated hitter, he was 6-for-12. Punto, who is recovering from a right forearm injury, is slated to make the first infield appearance of his rehab assignment on Friday. That's the biggest step for Punto, who has had little problem hitting at any point during his recovery.
Cards promote Valdes among flurry of moves
ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals continued reshaping their bullpen on Thursday, purchasing the contract of left-hander Raul Valdes from Triple-A Memphis and optioning right-hander Maikel Cleto to Memphis.
Valdes becomes the third lefty in the Cardinals' bullpen, joining Trever Miller and Brian Tallet. It's unclear exactly how he will be used, since he doesn't profile as a classic specialist, but with the ongoing struggles of the lefties already on the club, the Cards felt a move was necessary.
"My understanding is he's probably most suited for sort of a left-right-left scenario where he could see multiple hitters," general manager John Mozeliak said. "We'll try not to overexpose him and try to make him a long guy. We're just trying to make do and trying to work through our bullpen situation."
Valdes has thrived for Memphis since being moved to the bullpen. In 14 relief appearances spanning 16 1/3 innings, he has allowed six hits and one run, striking out 16 against one walk.
"His [Triple-A] manager and pitching coach have given him a good recommendation," manager Tony La Russa said. "That counts for a lot."
In additional adjustments, Memphis right-hander David Kopp was outrighted off the 40-man roster. Bryan Augenstein was activated from the 60-day disabled list and optioned to Triple-A as well. Augenstein will pitch in relief in Memphis. The Cardinals' 40-man roster is once again full after being at 39 players before Thursday.
Valdes, 33, signed with the Cardinals in the offseason after going 3-3 with a 4.91 ERA in 38 appearances for the Mets last season, striking out 56 in 58 2/3 innings. He was 5-2 with a 5.05 ERA in 21 games (seven starts) for Memphis this season and has done well since being removed from the rotation -- posting a 0.55 ERA and holding opponents to a .109 average in his 14 relief outings.
Valdes has been given uniform No. 37.
Sanchez likely out for two to three more weeks
ST. LOUIS -- Right-hander Eduardo Sanchez likely will not return to the active roster for another two to three weeks, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said on Thursday. Sanchez has been sidelined since June 12, when he showed a noticeable drop in velocity in an appearance against the Brewers.
Sanchez is out with what the club is calling a right shoulder strain. There was initially some hope -- though not really the expectation -- that he might be back soon after the minimum 15 days, but it's now clear that he will end up missing four weeks or more.
Mozeliak said there had been no setbacks for Sanchez, and that his rehab has come along as expected.
"I haven't spoken with [head athletic trainer Greg Hauck] today, but yesterday we were probably looking at another two to three weeks," Mozeliak said. "Really, he was just having trouble getting loose. So he had a lack of range of motion. That's all they're working on now, strengthening that. Last I checked, it was moving along well."
Triple-A Memphis split a doubleheader with Iowa on Wednesday, taking a 3-2 win before losing, 8-5. Nick Stavinoha had four hits on the day.
Chris Swauger was 3-for-4 with a double, two RBIs and a run in Double-A Springfield's 13-5 loss to Arkansas.
Ted Obregon had a single, a double and a triple in Class A Palm Beach's 6-5 win against Fort Myers.
Class A Quad Cities was off Wednesday as the Midwest League all-star break continued.
Short-season Batavia saw two late leads get away before falling to Mahoning Valley, 4-3. Casey Rasmus had two hits and a walk.
Matthew Williams and Roberto De La Cruz hit home runs, helping rookie-level Johnson City beat Kingsport, 5-3. Josh Lucas pitched six strong innings for the win.
Jem Argenal led a 15-hit outburst with four knocks as the Gulf Coast League Cardinals pounded the GCL Nationals, 19-7. Every Cardinals starter scored a run.
Argenal is the player of the day for his enormous game in his first start in a professional game on United States soil. The lefty-swinging outfielder from Nicaragua was 4-for-5 with a homer, three RBIs and four runs scored. Argenal, 19, signed with the Cardinals as a non-drafted free agent in 2008. He has spent the past two years playing with the Cards' Venezuelan Summer League affiliate.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.