ST LOUIS -- There have been difficulties at times this season for Cardinals reliever Sam Freeman to find space in a crowded bullpen.
His opportunity has presented itself in his most recent stint in the Majors and Freeman has produced.
"He comes in and the times he's been here, we've had guys doing a real nice job in those significant late innings and there hadn't been an opportunity for him," manager Mike Matheny said. "The opportunity has now shown itself and he's got an opportunity to show what he can do, and he's making the most of it."
Freeman made just one appearance in his first stint with the Cardinals in mid-May. Since being recalled May 24 for the second time this season when reliever Kevin Siegrist went on the disabled list, the left-hander has tossed three scoreless innings.
His most recent appearance came in a 1-0 game Saturday against the Giants. He struck out two in the seventh to record his first hold of the season as the bullpen faced the minimum number of batters through the final three frames.
Freeman entered the season with 37 appearances in the Majors during the last two seasons, posting a 4.18 ERA in 32 1/3 innings.
In 16 appearances with Triple-A Memphis this season, the 26-year-old posted a 3.54 ERA in 20 1/3 innings. The Cardinals have asked Freeman to work on his breaking ball, being quicker to the plate and his consistency in the strike zone using his fastball.
There is a feeling he has started to deliver.
"He threw so well in Triple-A, and he's just been waiting for that opportunity to show everything he's been working on," Matheny said. "He's done a nice job taking different assignments we've given him."
Jay getting consistent starts in crowded outfield
ST LOUIS -- In a crowded outfield, Jon Jay has started to emerge as a player who will continue to receive consistent playing time.
"Obviously Jon's swinging the bat well," manager Mike Matheny said. "[He] had another big hit [Friday] night and continues to make the most of the opportunities he's had."
Over the last nine games entering Sunday's series finale against the Giants, Jay has hit .370 (10-for-27), making starts in six of nine games. Off the bench, the prototypical center fielder has gone 4-for-4.
Since the recent additions of young outfielders Randal Grichuk and Oscar Taveras on Friday and Saturday, Jay has started in center on both Saturday and Sunday.
"I just show up every day ready to go," Jay said. "I've been working hard, so I'm trying to stay ready."
Even while the Cardinals will work to get at-bats for their young outfielders, another spot in the lineup will present itself beginning Wednesday, when the Cardinals play in American League ballparks with a designated hitter spot for seven games.
Siegrist throwing without any tightness in arm
ST LOUIS -- There is good news for Cardinals left-handed reliever Kevin Siegrist, who has begun throwing without feeling tightness in his throwing arm.
"It's feeling a lot better," Siegrist said. "I started throwing yesterday from 90 feet with no pain, so I'm just going to keep it going every day."
Siegrist began feeling the tightness after his appearance on May 18, describing it as near his wrist. Before he made his next appearance May 24, Siegrist was unavailable out of the Cardinals bullpen on multiple occasions except in the case of an emergency.
After retiring all four hitters he faced against the Reds on May 24, though, the tightness hadn't subsided and Siegrist returned to St. Louis to have his pitching arm examined by team orthopedist Timothy Farley. While the results didn't reveal anything major, Siegrist was placed on the 15-day disabled list and given a program of rest and rehab.
He had appeared in 22 of the Cardinals' first 44 games before making his last appearance. In 23 outings this season, Siegrist has totaled 20 innings, allowing eight runs for a 3.60 ERA.
The Cardinals have relied on other arms in his absence. Manager Mike Matheny said Thursday's eighth inning, in which reliever Carlos Martinez allowed three runs to lose the lead in an eventual 6-4 loss to the Giants, would have typically been a spot the team would have gone with Siegrist.
If all goes well, Siegrist will be ready to return to those late-game situations next Sunday, when he's eligible to come off the DL.
"I would hope so, but I'm not going to rush anything," Siegrist said of being ready to return. "If I'm feeling something, it's better to get it right now than rush back and have trouble with it in the future."
• Catcher Yadier Molina was given Sunday off after starting behind the plate in the first six games of the nine-game homestand. Molina has hit just .111 (2-for-18) over that span.
"We talked about this a while back to give him a day when we can," Matheny said. "He's fighting to get some luck more than anything else. He just needs a couple things to break."
• One day after Oscar Taveras made his debut in the Majors with a home run against the Giants, he was asked if he could believe it.
"Yeah, I believe it," the 21-year-old said simply.
• With Michael Wacha's six scoreless innings Saturday in the Cardinals' 2-0 victory, St. Louis has had 11 starts this season where its starter has gone six innings or more allowing no runs.
Alex Halsted is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.