After a 1-0 loss to Philadelphia on Tuesday, St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny turned to an all right-handed-hitting lineup Wednesday against Phillies left-hander Adam Morgan.
Matheny used hot-hitting rookie shortstop Aledmys Diaz in the leadoff spot, gave Yadier Molina his first start at first base and put Ruben Tejada at third base for Matt Carpenter. Eric Fryer took over for Molina behind the plate.
“We’re getting some right-handers in there,” Matheny said before the Cardinals’ 5-4 victory. “But it’s a day game (Thursday), the middle of a long stretch of games. We need everybody to contribute. This is one of those games to hopefully get some other guys involved and get us going.”
Molina became the fifth player to start a game at first base. The others are Brandon Moss, Matt Adams, Matt Holliday and Carpenter.
The start at first base was Molina’s first since Sept. 20, 2014.
“The way he’s swinging the bat and going through his at-bats, we want him on the field,” Matheny said of Molina, who was 0-for-3 and is batting .323 with 10 RBIs.
Molina often fields grounders at first base and other infield positions to stay sharp.
“I think we could throw him anywhere on the infield and he’s going to look really good,” Matheny said. “Guys with good hands, it translates wherever you go on the field.”
I think we could throw him anywhere on the infield and he’s going to look really good. Guys with good hands, it translates wherever you go on the field.
St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny on giving Gold Glove catcher Yadier Molina a rare start at first base
Soft hands, Matheny said, aren’t Molina’s only defensive assets at first base.
“There’s an aggressiveness to Yadi. There’a fearlessness to Yadi,” Matheny said. “That translates well on the field no matter where you put him. His sense of the game ... He’s thinking ahead of time, he’s watching, paying real close attention. He’s just a student of the game. He’s thinking about making plays.
“He wants to help the team win not (by) staying away from bad plays. He wants to make great plays. That would play anywhere on this field.”
Diaz, an early candidate for National League Rookie of the Year, has a bat that could hit anywhere in the order. He is hitting .381 with five home runs and 16 RBIs.
“He’s taking good at-bats,” Matheny said. “He’ll take the walk when he gets it (and) he’s been taking good at-bats against lefties. We’ll see what he can do in the leadoff spot.
“The way he’s hitting so far, I think anybody would take him. A .390 hitter, you could put him about anywhere. He uses the whole field. We’re trying to continue to give him an atmosphere that feels consistent, to where he can keep taking the kind of at-bats he’s taking.”
Matheny said one would be correct to assume Carpenter wasn’t overjoyed about being idled. But the left-handed hitter didn’t fit into Matheny’s lineup profile against Morgan.
Pham to Memphis
Outfielder Tommy Pham began a rehab assignment at Class AAA Memphis on Wednesday and was 1-for-2 with two RBIs, a walk and a stolen base against Omaha.
Pham has been on the disabled list since April 4 with a strained left oblique. It’s not yet clear when he will rejoin the Cardinals.
“He’s typically a guy who, even though we put him on a plan, has a feel that he’s looking for,” Matheny said. “We saw that last year in spring training when he got hurt. It looked like he was real close and he said, ‘Hey, I can find fifth gear, but there’s a sixth.’
“Most of us have three (gears). So for him to find sixth gear took a little more time. That’s not anything I’m even remotely in tune with. We’re going to have to wait and see how he finds that gear to where he feels like, ‘Hey, I’m ready.’ Last year, he waited and then he went down there and got crazy-hot. He came up here and we benefited from it.”
Bourjos the Phillie
Outfielder Peter Bourjos spent two seasons in St. Louis, but neither went as planned.
Bourjos batted .231 with four home runs and 24 RBIs in 119 games in 2014, then dropped to .200 with four homers and 13 RBIs in 117 games last season. His on-base percentage was under .300 both seasons.
Bourjos, who signed a one-year, $2-million free-agent contract with Philadelphia in the offseason, showed Tuesday why he’s still in the big leagues. He raced toward the line and made a sliding catch to rob Randal Grichuk of at least a double in the fourth inning.
That whole clubhouse is good people. They know how to win. They treat each other right. They’re close. They enjoy being around each other. Those are the teams I was on when I was there.
Philadelphia outfielder Peter Bourjos on his two years with the Cardinals
Molina was on first and almost certainly would have scored had the ball eluded Bourjos.
“I got a good jump on it and luckily it hung up long enough for me to get underneath it and make a sliding catch on it,” Bourjos said Wednesday.
Bourjos enjoyed his Cardinals teammates and misses St. Louis.
“That whole clubhouse is good people,” he said. “They know how to win. They treat each other right. They’re close. They enjoy being around each other. Those are the teams I was on when I was there. That’s how it was. You enjoyed coming to the field, being around the guys.
“It’s the same thing here. Everybody comes to the field and just enjoys being around each other, and if you can do that through 162 games, you’re going to win some games just because of that.”
Better than this
Center fielder Grichuk looks at the Cardinals’ mediocre record for the first month of the season and believes they’re so much more better than it indicates.
“Most definitely,” he said. “I feel like we definitely haven’t played to our full potential, by far. I definitely think we’re better than where we are right now.”
St. Louis is 14-14, seven games out of first place. It’s the largest deficit the Cardinals have faced since the 2012 season.
I feel like we definitely haven’t played to our full potential, by far. I definitely think we’re better than where we are right now.
St. Louis center fielder Randal Grichuk on the Cardinals’ performance in the first month of the season
Even though it’s not necessary to finish in first place to qualify for the postseason, the Cardinals will need to at least be double-digits above .500 to be in contention.
Last year, for example, the two wild-card teams in the National League, Pittsburgh and the Chicago Cubs, were a combined 66 games over .500. The wild-card teams in the American League, the New York Yankees and Houston, were a combined 22 over .500.
“It’s frustrating. Hopefully, we’ll put it all together pretty soon,” Grichuk said.