First baseman Craig fields grounders, getting closer to playing defense

News-DemocratOctober 27, 2013 

— Allen Craig took ground balls at first base again Saturday afternoon, five hours before taking a seat for the start of Game 3 of the World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox.

First-base coach Chris Maloney flipped balls to third-base coach Jose Oquendo, who hit them to Craig to simulate a game as much as possible. Craig turned and threw the fielded grounders to Kolten Wong near second base, again to simulate possible game action.

Craig, the Cardinals' designated hitter the first two games of the series, is not starting. Matt Adams will play first base.

"We're pretty happy with the guy we have out there," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Matt Adams has done a terrific job."

Matheny said Craig's return to playing defense is "a process."

"He took some more ground balls," Matheny said. "He feels good and made a stride forward. That may end up happening. But right now, the timing, we just can't do it yet as far as a start goes. But (that's) not to say we can't insert him into the game defensively later on."

The series is tied at one game apiece. Boston won Game 1 8-1 on Wednesday; the Cardinals took Game 2 4-2 on Thursday.

Lynn in Game 4

Lance Lynn will pitch for St. Louis against Clay Buchholz in Game 4 of the series at 7:15 p.m. Sunday.

Lynn is 2-1 with a 5.40 ERA in three games, two of them starts. Lynn said it's hard to treat the assignment as just another game.

"If you can say a run up to a World Series feels normal, that's a good thing to have. Not many people get to say that, I guess," said Lynn, who was 15-10 with a 3.97 ERA in the regular season. "But it's never going to feel normal. It's a World Series. You're getting a chance to start in the World Series, against the best team from the American League.

"You're excited. Got a little bit of nerves. But when it's all said and done, you've been doing it all year and you have to take it as another start and be the best prepared for it as you can."

Lynn doesn't receive near the acclaim that is afforded to fell right-handers Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha, but Red Sox manager John Farrell said he is deserving of respect.

"I've seen him pitch on TV a couple of times," Farrell said. "We know he has power stuff. He might not throw as downhill as Wainwright and Wacha do. But the fact is he's in the starting rotation on a World Series team, and he's been a main contributor to this organization for a couple of years."

The slow-working Buchholz (12-1, 1.74 ERA in the regular season) has been battling arm fatigue and has been slowed in his normal preparation for the start. But Farrell believes he'll be ready to give the Red Sox a quality performance.

"We go into (Sunday) thinking that he's going to give us what he's been in the postseason," Farrell said. "That might be a little bit shorter of an outing than maybe we've seen back in April and May. But he's also been very effective. And we're fully anticipating that to be the case (Sunday)."

Buchholz said he feels OK.

"The ball's not really coming out of my hand like it does in spring training and early in the year," Buchholz said, adding that most pitchers are in the same position this late in the season.

"I don't think there any risk there," Buchholz ontinued. "The one thing I have in my mind is I always go out there and compete. ... Given the couple of days that I've been out so far, I'm not 100 percent. But I don't think anyone at this point of the season is 100 percent."

Buchholz isn't sure how long he can pitch.

"That's the last thing on my mind," he said.

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at dwilhelm@bnd.com or 239-2665.

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