PHOENIX -- With his back continuing to respond well to strength exercises, mobility tests and batting cage work, David Freese will head to Triple-A Memphis to begin a Minor League rehab assignment. Initially slated to get on-field work in extended Spring Training games this weekend, Freese will be able to play in games sooner by instead reporting to Memphis, which opens its season on Thursday.
Manager Mike Matheny said that Freese is tentatively scheduled to play five innings in Thursday's Triple-A opener. If he plays on Friday, it will likely be just as a designated hitter. The organization's plan is to then have Freese play a full game at least once over the weekend before determining if the third baseman is ready to come off the disabled list in advance of Monday's home opener.
"He seemed to just keep feeling better, and that's an opportunity for us to see if he can push it," Matheny said. "Looking at just doing a couple games down in extended [Spring Training] where it wouldn't even be pushing him toward full games, he just wouldn't be ready in time. He's excited about how he feels."
Freese started the season on the disabled list after being slowed late in camp with lower-back inflammation. The back issue dates back to March 4, when Freese fell into the stands trying to catch a ball in foul territory. He took only 16 at-bats after that tumble.
Since the team departed Florida on Friday, Freese has resumed strengthening exercises, running and batting practice.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.