© 2009 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

02/27/09 6:12 PM EST

Freese, Ryan healing by the day

Cardinals infielders not expected to return before Wednesday

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Infielders David Freese and Brendan Ryan are "improving slightly" from injuries and will both be out for several more days, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said on Friday.

Freese is recovering from an Achilles tendon injury, while Ryan has tendinitis in his right wrist. Both are competing for spots on the Major League roster, and neither is guaranteed an Opening Day job. The Cardinals have a day off on Wednesday, and La Russa estimated that neither would play before that break.

"I don't see either of them playing [until] after the off-day," La Russa said. "If they come back Thursday, that would be great."

When third baseman Troy Glaus underwent shoulder surgery in January, general manager John Mozeliak said he believed Freese was the favorite to win the third-base job in Glaus' absence. As things stand now, though, it appears that Joe Mather has a better shot at that opportunity -- and the gap obviously widens as Mather plays and Freese sits.

"He had a chance to come here and play his way onto the team if he looked like he was ready versus the competition," La Russa said. "And one of the guys was going to be Joe Mather. He just needs to get healthy, whenever that is. You can't give him a deadline. Whenever he gets well, you see what's left and go from there."

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.