St. Louis Cardinals

Peralta sizing up the hot corner for Cardinals

St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Jhonny Peralta throws to first against the Nationals.
St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Jhonny Peralta throws to first against the Nationals.

A switch to third base could be the best thing for 34-year-old Jhonny Peralta.

Peralta was injured much of last season, but when the St. Louis Cardinals committed to playing Aledmys Diaz at shortstop, it meant pushing Peralta to third when he returned from injury. Until then, Peralta had played just 211 of his 1,710 career games at the hot corner.

Peralta had a dazzling defensive performance Friday as the Cardinals improved to 10-4 with a 7-1 win over the Washington Nationals.

Everyone raved about his third-inning gem. Peralta raced in on Adam Eaton’s topper, barehanded the ball and threw on the run to retire the speedy Eaton.

“He made it look easy,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “We talk about (needing) athleticism. (But) it doesn’t have to be a guy that can jump out of the gym and break land-speed records when he’s running. It’s the hand-eye, the smooth movements.

“Jhonny is a good athlete. He never would have played (so) much shortstop at this level if he wasn’t. He’s got these really smooth, natural movements. I think it’s just going to take the repetitions like (Friday). He got a lot of work.”

Matheny said Peralta spent time studying third base during the offseason using a computer program. It helped Peralta determine how much time he has to throw out runners, both slow and fast, from various points of the third-base position.

“We call him, ‘Just in time,’” Matheny said. “He always knows how much he has to put on that throw, and he’s accurate with it.

“He’s moving around great. He’s just got such a knack, too. Straight veteran.”

Peralta enjoys third base.

“I don’t want to say I don’t miss shortstop, but I feel better and better at third base now,” Peralta said. “I’m more comfortable. Spring training is good for me to work on what I need to work. I feel pretty good about it now.

“Third base is reaction more than anything. My glove is good. The only work is to know the hitter, know who can bunt. (Charging the ball) is something I work a lot on in spring training.”

David Wilhelm: 618-239-2665, @DavidMWilhelm