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The initial read on an MRI taken of third baseman David Freese’s back and how the infielder is feeling this morning has the Cardinals “encouraged” just a day after uncertainty reigned.

General manager John Mozeliak used that word to describe the reaction to Freese’s improvement and the picture taken of his lower back.

“Opening day has not been ruled out,” Mozeliak said.

Freese will receive an anti-inflammatory injection later today. That could keep him off the field for at least one additional day. The Cardinals have only four exhibition games remaining, including one this afternoon against the Minnesota Twins.

Freese remains back in Jupiter, Fla., this morning along with several other starters — including right fielder Carlos Beltran (fractured toe) — while the rest of the team plays across the state in Fort Myers, Fla. Rick Hummel, The Post-Dispatch’s Hall of Fame baseball writer, will be providing coverage here on C-Beat from Shelby Miller’s start.

Jason Motte continues to test his injured right elbow in an attempt to gauge the severity of the damage done to his flexor tendon. Motte has been doing some range-of-motion exercises and has felt relief from the pain. He must show that he can do a series of arm exercises without pain before being cleared to pick up a ball and begin the early stages of a return to throwing.

The more days he misses because of the soreness in the joint the longer it will likely take him to return because of the time needed to rebuild arm strength.

 By Derrick Goold dgoold@post-dispatch.com 314-340-8285

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