Rookie Butler ready for anything; Kelly not showing improvement

News-DemocratMay 12, 2014 

— Being in the big leagues has taken away at-bats for recently recalled St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Joey Butler.

Butler, 28, isn't complaining.

"Absolutely not," he said. "Another thing you have to remember is this is about the ballclub winning. Whatever they call on me to do, I'm ready to do it. If they need me off the bench, then I'm there off the bench. If they need me to give (Matt) Holliday or (Allen) Craig a rest, then I'm there for that, too.

"It's kind of a situation where you've got to put yourself last."

Butler's contract was purchased from Class AAA Memphis on Friday when the Cardinals optioned Randal Grichuk to Memphis. Butler was batting .360 (31-for-86) with four doubles, four home runs, 20 RBIs and a .481 on-base percentage in 31 games.

Butler said it was nothing more than a hot streak.

"I think the game of baseball, the season is so long that you go through streaks where you're hot-hot and you go through slumps where you're cold," Butler said Monday before his first game at Busch Stadium. "I think this just happened to be a year where I started off on a hot streak.

"Honestly, that's been one of the most surprising things because (typically) I'll be hot-hot, and then I'll have a down game or a bad game. Then I come back with one hit and it will slowly build back up or slowly go worse. This year, I'll be hot, then I'll have an 0-for, but then I come back with another good game."

Butler enjoyed productive minor-league seasons with the Texas Rangers. He batted .291 with 26 doubles, 12 homers and 51 RBIs with Class AAA Round Rock in 2013 after batting .290 with 28 doubles, 20 homers and 78 RBIs in 2012, also with Round Rock.

"He had a nice start in Memphis," Matheny said. "He can drive the ball; he can hit for power. He's another piece we can hopefully use."

This season, Butler said his mission has been to keep the game simple: See the ball, hit the ball.

"I've felt really good at the plate," he said. "I think one of the biggest keys is not overthinking it. I've been there before and had success. I've kind of been waiting for something (bad) to happen so I would have to fix it, but nothing ever went wrong, so I never had anything to tweak or fix."

Kelly still ailing

Disabled pitcher Joe Kelly has made little to no improvement as he tries to work through strained left hamstring. Kelly hasn't pitched since April 16 when he injured himself against Milwaukee.

"I played catch (Monday) and felt better," said Kelly, who hasn't run or thrown off a mound since the injury. "I'm just seeing how I feel every single day, trying to do a little more inch by inch."

Kelly said the last week of April that the hamstring was improving. But it began to flare up again a few days later, prompting the Cardinals to adopt a more cautious approach.

"It was getting more sore, so we backed off a little bit," Kelly said. "It wasn't responding the next day. Every day I was progressing, but it didn't respond right after that. We backed off a little bit and just tried to let it heal before we tried to push it to the next step."

Kelly has no timetable for his return to pitching.

"I'm not sure about that. I have no idea," he said. "I've never had this problem in my life, so I'm not sure how to deal with it. I've had different kinds of injuries, but nothing hamstring-related."

Miller's musings

Right-hander Shelby Miller is 5-2 with a 3.22 ERA, but so much more is expected of the former No. 1 pick.

Miller is among those who believes he has more to offer even though he has won five in a row

"It feels like I'm a tick off," said Miller, who has a staff-high 27 walks and just 33 strikeouts in 44 2/3 innings. "I feel like I'm real close. I know what I need to work on. Hopefully, this next start (Friday), the command is a little bit better."

Miller hasn't lasted than six innings in any of his eight starts this season, which has taxed a bullpen that is 1-7 with a 3.83 ERA.

"It's mechanical things," Miller said. "We're getting through games even though I'm not pitching as good as I want to. Winning those games when you're struggling a little bit are the ones that matter.

"Obviously, I want to go seven innings and I want to help the bullpen out and go as deep into the game as possible. But my job is to battle as much as I can. It feels like that's what I've been doing."

Wong on rebound

Second baseman Kolten Wong has been sizzling for Memphis in May. Through Sunday, he was batting .333 (14-for-42) with a .391 on-base percentage in 10 games this month.

"He's playing well," said Matheny, who has given at-bats previously taken by Wong to veteran Mark Ellis. "We sent him back with a purpose. He had things to work on."

Garcia rehab

Left-hander Jaime Garcia threw five innings in an injury-rehab start Monday for Memphis against Round Rock.

Garcia allowed two runs (earned) on three hits, including a home runs, in five innings, walking two and striking out five. Forty-three of his 74 pitches were strikes.

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at dwilhelm@bnd.com or 239-2665. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidMWilhelm.

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