St. Louis Cardinals

Carpenter plugging along despite slump; Walden getting itchy for return to mound

Third baseman Matt Carpenter might need a break, but he continues to plug away.

St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny had considered giving Carpenter a much-needed breather Saturday, but Carpenter was in the lineup against Kansas City and was 1-for-4 with an RBI. He is 3-for-26 (.115) with 10 strikeouts in his last eight games.

“I think we’ve been spoiled around here because this has happened very few times in his still-young career, where we’ve seen him just kind of fighting,” Matheny said. “But I told him this (Wednesday) in Colorado: ‘It must be nice when you’re really fighting up there and you still throw two hits up.’ That’s the kind of hitter he is.”

Carpenter acknowledged he is scuffling.

“I don’t feel great; I’ve felt better,” he said. “But when you don’t feel great, you find a way to do something productive. It’s the nature of the game.”

Carpenter, who struck out a career-high 111 times last season when he batted .272, is on pace to fan 135 times this year. He struck out four times in a game for the first time in his career Tuesday.

“I couldn’t tell you,” Carpenter said of the reasons for his elevated strikeout rate. “If I knew, I would stop. It’s a long season. The ebbs and flows of the game are part of it. You’ve just got to kind of ride the waves.”

Matheny believes the strikeouts are grating on Carpenter, a perfectionist who prides himself in putting the ball in play.

“I think what’s frustrating him maybe more than anything is the fact that he’s striking out, which is something he doesn’t normally do,” Matheny said. “He’s working. I watch him in BP. He’s got intent to every swing right now to get himself locked back in. But even when he’s not locked in, he’s still going to be a tough out.”

Matheny originally had considered idling Carpenter on Friday. With the off day Thursday, that would have given Carpenter a 48-hour break. Carpenter, however, played and was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in the Cardinals’ 4-0 win over the Royals.

Carpenter missed four consecutive games May 7-10 as he battled fatigue. Matheny said that is not what Carpenter is experiencing this time around.

“I trust some of these guys when they tell me, physically, they feel great, especially coming off an off day,” Matheny said, a reference to Carpenter. “He feels real good. He just need to get in there and work on finding his swing in the box. I completely respect that.

“Since we had that little bout where he just worked himself right into the ground, he’s been honest on days when he’s dragging a little. We’ll have him be a late show-up, we’ll have him back off his indoor work and we’ll give him a day off. But this isn’t one of those times.”

Walden getting restless

Injured reliever Jordan Walden hopes to start throwing off the mound soon. Walden, sidelined with a biceps injury, hasn’t pitched since April 29.

“I’ve played catch three times, so I’m guessing I’m going to have to do some good long-toss before I get closer to the mound,” he said. “It’s been a while since I’ve pitched, but there’s only so much you can do when your shoulder (is injured). I just want to get healthy and pitch healthy. That’s what I’m going for. The next couple of weeks will be big.”

Since Walden last pitched, the Cardinals are 27-15.

“We have a good team,” Walden said. “No matter who goes down, there’s somebody there to pick them up. This is a good group of guys here. I just want to be able to get back soon and pitch again. There’s so much ball left. Maybe this is just a little bump in the road for the season and I can finish strong.”

Royals injury

Left-hander Jason Vargas, who was scheduled to pitch against the Cardinals in the series finale at 1:15 p.m. Sunday, was placed on the disabled list Saturday with a left flexor strain, an injury similar to the one that placed Cardinals pitcher Lance Lynn on the DL on Friday.

The Royals recalled left-hander Brandon Finnegan from Class AAA Omaha and announced that right-hander Chris Young (5-2, 2.25 ERA) will pitch Sunday against the Cardinals.

Cain in house

Journey keyboardist Jonathan Cain was in the Cardinals’ dugout before the game.

Cain and Matheny became friends when Matheny played former manager Tony La Russa. Cain and La Russa have been friends for years, and Cain has performed at La Russa’s former “Stars To The Rescue” concert in St. Louis to benefit the Animal Rescue Foundation.

Cain, 65, is from Chicago but is a self-proclaimed Cardinals fan.

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at dwilhelm@bnd.com or 618-239-2665. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidMWilhelm.

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