ST. LOUIS — St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny has made it clear that he will occasionally shift players into idle mode, even when their motors are humming for action.
Wednesday was Allen Craig's day to take a break. Craig, who had played in every inning this season, yielded first base to Matt Adams for the Cardinals' series finale at 12:45 against the Cincinnati Reds, while Carlos Beltran made his third consecutive start in right field.
It's all about keeping the roster fresh for the long haul.
"I don't think any of them want the day off," Matheny said. "After today, we've got a pretty long stretch (13 games in 13 days). There's going to be some days where maybe they're going to be barking a little bit. Maybe we can beat that to the punch to where they're getting a day to help them through the long stretches."
Beltran, left fielder Matt Holliday, catcher Yadier Molina and third baseman David Freese will be closely monitored. All are in the lineup Wednesday, with the off day Thursday influencing Matheny's decision to play them following a long game Tuesday night.
"If we see something, we're always going to be cautious with all the guys," Matheny said. "Yadi's one of them, especially behind the plate. But this is something he lives for, to get in there and play every day. Right now, he feels really good. Tomorrow being an off day makes it an easy decision."
Molina, center fielder Jon Jay and shortstop Pete Kozma are the only remaining players who have started all nine games.
The Cardinals always will be looking for an opportunity to get the hard-hitting Adams into the lineup. The rookie's two-run homer in a pinch-hitting role Tuesday against Bronson Arroyo gave the Cardinals a 2-1 lead in the sixth inning of a game they won 5-1.
"We made it very clear that if we were going to keep him on this team, we had to find opportunities for him to play and not just pinch-hit," Matheny said. "With starts, we've got to find him a couple a week. It's going to give some of the other guys some rest.
"You look across the field and most of them are getting a day already. That's not necessarily the way they like to go about it, but that's how our club's designed right now. We have to keep a young player like Matt really in the mix if we're going to keep him sharp."
One player who hasn't often been in the mix is Shane Robinson, the team's best hitter in spring training. Matheny said it has been a challenge to find time for the backup outfielder.
"The one guy we really haven't been able to do as much with as I'd hoped is Shane Robinson, with the great spring he had," Matheny said. "It's really hard when you've got the outfielders we have already, and (with) Jon Jay playing so well and the pivotal spot he has at the top of the lineup. But we need to get Shane more involved as well, and I believe over the long haul, it's going to pay off."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2665.