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Angels third baseman David Freese may find new defensive purpose

SportsLos Angeles AngelsMajor League BaseballBaseballDavid FreeseTony La RussaSean Burnett

MESA, Ariz. — It wasn't quite a stump speech for a David Freese Gold Glove Award campaign, but it was a ringing endorsement in the eyes of the Angels' new third baseman.

Angels Manager Mike Scioscia stopped short of saying he would pull Freese for defensive purposes, at least to start the season.

“We're not there yet,” Scioscia said. “We'll see where we are next week, but David is going to play third base for us, and we anticipate him playing it well.”

Freese, acquired from St. Louis for Peter Bourjos in November, appreciates the support.

“I'm happy to hear Mike put that out there,” said Freese, who was scratched from Tuesday's 8-4 exhibition win over the Chicago Cubs because of a tight quadriceps. “I want to give high-fives on the field, plain and simple. I want to be out there every inning I can.”

Freese has never been known for his range and hands, and surgery to repair a torn tendon in his right ankle in 2010 further hampered him defensively.

With slick-fielding Daniel Descalso on the bench and the Cardinals mounting a September push that would lead to their 2011 World Series title, Manager Tony La Russa often replaced Freese as part of a double switch or for defensive purposes. Mike Matheny, after replacing La Russa, continued the practice in 2012 and 2013.

“Was it frustrating? Of course,” Freese said. “Me and Tony got into it a couple of times about it behind closed doors, but I tried to see it for what it was. I don't have the lineup card in my locker.”

Scioscia will have a strong defensive option in John McDonald if he wants to pull Freese.

Good and bad news

There were mixed emotions in McDonald's Scituate, Mass., home Tuesday after the 39-year-old utility infielder was told he made the team and was added to the 40-man roster.

“My 5-year-old daughter said, ‘I'm happy for you, Daddy, but sad for me,'” McDonald said. “She wants Daddy to come home.”

That homecoming will have to wait — until after October, McDonald hopes. On the plus side, Jackie McDonald will be able to go to Disneyland as long as her father keeps playing the kind of defense he has played this spring and throughout a 15-year career.

“He can definitely help us on the defensive side,” Scioscia said. “He's a magician with the glove. He's really showed well at shortstop recently, and that's something to put a lot of weight on.”

McDonald is a career .235 hitter whose glove, hands, quick release and accurate arm have kept him employed. But it didn't hurt that he has hit .321 this spring.

“You don't change the player you are over the course of 15 years, but I've tried to have better-quality at-bats and shorten my swing,” McDonald said. “I tried to hit the ball through the infield instead of over the outfield.”

Another snag

Left-hander Sean Burnett, who had to be shut down during Friday's bullpen workout when his elbow flared up, completed Tuesday's mound session, but it did not go well.

“He's still not able to get over that hump,” Scioscia said of Burnett, who is trying to return from elbow surgery. “It's a step forward any time you can get off the mound, but it wasn't the breakthrough bullpen we were looking for. He wasn't able to turn the ball loose like he needs to.”

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

Twitter: @MikeDiGiovanna

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SportsLos Angeles AngelsMajor League BaseballBaseballDavid FreeseTony La RussaSean Burnett
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