Shortstop Ruben Tejada was activated from the disabled list Monday by the St. Louis Cardinals, who optioned Greg Garcia to Class AAA Memphis.
Tejada, 26, had been on the disabled list with a strained left quadriceps. Tejada was 3-for-9 with a double in three rehab games with Class AA Springfield.
Tejada, who will wear No. 19, injured the quad in the Cardinals’ final Grapefruit League game March 31. The right-handed hitter was signed by the Cardinals as a free agent March 19 following his release by the New York Mets.
The Cardinals have used three shortstops this season: Garcia, Aledmys Diaz and Jedd Gyorko. Regular shortstop Jhonny Peralta isn’t expected to return until after the All-Star break as he heals from surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb.
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Diaz is batting .400 (14-for-35) with six doubles, two home runs and eight RBIs. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny is inclined to continue to ride Diaz’s hot bat.
“The kid has done a great job,” Matheny said. “That’s part of the conversation even with a Greg Garcia, to say, ‘We brought you on this team to be versatile and we had to go get some help with a player like Tejada with experience. The door opened for Diaz, and what’s there not to like about what he’s done?’
“That was something that we didn’t necessarily anticipate. But (Diaz) can play. He’s done a great job and will continue to get opportunities.”
Diaz, however, has committed four errors, including one Monday in the Chicago Cubs’ 5-0 victory.
Asked when Tejada might get an opportunity to start, Matheny said: “We’ll see.”
Garcia was 6-for-10 with one double, one home run, two RBIs and four walks in eight games. He has one of the Cardinals’ six pinch-hit homers this season.
“He did a great job,” Matheny said. “I told him that he did everything we asked and hoped that he would do. He understands the point where he is in his career and the kind of team we have right now.”
Defensively, Garcia still needs work at shortstop. Matheny said that’s where Garcia will receive the majority of his time in Memphis.
“I think getting a little more work at short will make him a little more comfortable,” Matheny said. “I think some of those things that don’t look right when a guy isn’t as comfortable, that usually comes with just some time. He’s going to get lots of repetition at short.”
While continuing to play third base and second base.
“You’re going to see a lot of shortstop, mostly from the need in Memphis more than anything else,” Matheny said. “I think the more exposure that he gets at short ... He’s pretty confident at second. He’ll get a little work at third, too.”
Combating the Cubs
Playing the Chicago Cubs on a Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday isn’t hurting attendance. The crowd Monday was a sellout (45,432), and similar gatherings are expected Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon.
“Whatever it is that keeps people coming and sitting in these seats, that’s what drives and pushes this game,” Matheny said. “We know that we’re going to have some Cubs fans here, but there are going to be an awful lot of people wearing red. I know they’ve been looking forward to this. There has been a lot of hype. Our angle on that is that it’ll be fun to get out and not talk about it, but actually play the game.”
The Cubs were preseason favorites to dethrone the Cardinals as NL Central champions. Matheny said it “doesn’t really matter” that the target is on the Cubs’ back.
“We can’t control it, whether it’s a lot of attention for or against somebody else,” he said. “That’s really out of our hands. I think we have some young players who might be overlooked for what they’ve been able to do for a short period of time. I like what our guys are doing.
“I focus on our team and not so much on everybody else. They can have all the hype they want. It can be a distraction. And I think if they focus on what another team is potentially going to do, that can be a distraction, too. So there are always challenges, whether it’s positive or negative.”
Hazelbaker over Grichuk
Rookie Jeremy Hazelbaker played center field instead of Randal Grichuk, giving the Cardinals another left-handed bat against Cubs starter John Lackey.
Hazelbaker, who didn’t start Sunday, has been one of the Cardinals’ most productive hitters. He began Monday batting .394 (13-for-33) with five doubles, two homers and seven RBIs.
“They all have to play,” Matheny said. “I had a hard time not putting Hazelbaker in there (Sunday). ... I imagine we’re going to have these conversations every day while everybody is playing the way they are. Between wanting Grichuk to be in there and (Stephen) Piscotty and (Matt) Holliday and (Brandon) Moss, and then Hazelbaker, something has to give.
“So far the guys have been good about understanding that. Some days they’re going to feel like they should be in there and want to be in there and it looks like they ought to be in there, and we just don’t have room.”