ST. PETERSBURG -- Matt Holliday felt somewhat better on Saturday than on Friday, manager Tony La Russa said, but the slugger spent another day at designated hitter in the second game of the Cardinals' Interleague series against the Rays. Holliday is battling an illness that first struck him on Thursday night.

La Russa expects Holliday to return to the outfield for Sunday's series finale. That would allow Lance Berkman to get a 'half day off' by serving as DH in the Cards' final Interleague game of 2011.

"I think [Holliday] is marginally better, but it just seems like a good idea to give him two days where he's not as taxed," La Russa said.

At least partly as a result of Holliday's situation, David Freese got his first Major League start at first base on Saturday. La Russa had hoped to get Freese one of those half-days over the weekend by playing him at DH. Instead, Freese will play third, with the idea that it may be a bit less physically taxing. Freese has been back from the DL for less than a week after missing nearly two months due to a broken bone in his hand.

  • 131 wins
  • 121 wins

Freese made nine appearances at first base in the Minor Leagues, all at Triple-A Memphis in 2009. He is a third baseman by trade.

"I'm going to view it just like I'm playing third," Freese said. "I'm going to be that focused and just go out there and try and do my job."

Theriot like big brother to Brignac

ST. PETERSBURG -- For Reid Brignac and Ryan Theriot, Friday night's Rays-Cardinals meeting brought the first opportunity for a mentor and a student -- and two good friends -- to play against one another in the Major Leagues.

"That was special," Theriot, 31, said. "I'm looking out there and seeing Reid. It was like seeing your little brother in the Major Leagues."

The Louisiana natives have known each other for more than 10 years, they work out during offseasons in Baton Rouge, La., and they spend time together socially.

"I've been knowing who Ryan was since I was a kid watching him play at Broadmoor High School in Baton Rouge," Brignac, 26, said. "We've pretty much been together each offseason since 2004. He's got a house in Baton Rouge; we go to LSU football games together. He's more like a big brother. He was like a role model for me for several years when he didn't even know me.

"He played at LSU, won a national championship at LSU. We're genuinely good friends; whatever I want, he wants. We help each other out. We enjoy each other's company. We love each other's families. I consider his wife a good friend of mine; I love being around their little boy and two little girls."

When Brignac realized he needed to learn how to more effectively play second base in order to stick in the Major Leagues in 2010, Theriot helped him out a lot with some of the nuances of the position.

"We did nothing but second-base drills all during the offseason," Brignac said. "We would just do footwork around second base. We would talk about different scenarios, like teaching me the safest way to turn a double play when somebody was bearing down on you. How to get out of there. How to jump whenever I needed to."

After Friday night's game, the pair went out and caught up.

"We talked hitting for about an hour," Brignac said.

Brignac has struggled this season. The Rays shortstop carried a .184 average into Saturday night's game. Theriot told Brignac he needed to find the edge again.

"A lack of confidence is the only thing that's slowing him down right now," Theriot said. "It happens to a lot of young players when they don't get off to the start they want to.

"They don't have that early success that they'd like to have, and they start to doubt and they lose that edge. That edge is something all the great players have. And Reid has always had that. A good swagger. Confidence. And you can tell. I could see it in his at-bats last night. It's nothing mechanical. It's nothing physical. It's all between the ears."

Baby Birds

• Maikel Cleto overcame a shaky beginning to turn in a decent outing and Steven Hill hit a grand slam, as Triple-A Memphis beat Oklahoma City, 5-2, on Friday. Cleto allowed two runs, both in the first inning, on three hits. He struck out six and walked four in five innings.

• Ryan Jackson was 3-for-5 with three RBIs, backing six strong innings from Shelby Miller in a 9-6 win for Double-A Springfield against Frisco. Miller pitched six innings with two runs on six hits, five strikeouts and no walks.

• Domnit Bolivar provided all of the offense for Class A Palm Beach in a 3-2 loss to Bradenton. Bolivar was 2-for-3 with a two-run homer.

• Ronny Gil was 3-for-3 with a walk, a double and two runs scored in Class A Quad Cities' 5-3 loss to Clinton.

• Jeremy Patton homered and drove in three runs, but it wasn't enough in short-season Batavia's 8-6 loss to Jamestown.

• Rookie-level Johnson City rallied for two runs in the bottom of the ninth and one more in the 10th to beat Pulaski, 5-4. David Bergin was 4-for-5.

• Breyvil Valera and Ildemaro Vargas each had two hits and two RBIs in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Cardinals' 9-2 win against the GCL Astros.

Bergin is the player of the day, not only for the number of hits, but his timing. Bergin's single started the game-tying rally in the ninth, and his RBI single in the 10th was the game-ender. Bergin, 21, was the Cardinals' 30th-round pick in last month's Draft. He's 8-for-24 with four RBIs in the first six games of his pro career.