St. Louis Cardinals

Matheny expects Holliday to shake slump; Cubs’ Heyward could return against Cards

Matt Holliday began Monday night in an 0-for-11 slump. The aging St. Louis Cardinals left fielder was 2-for-19 in the first six games of the homestand.

But the Cardinals still believe he will do damage, and nothing said that more than manager Mike Matheny putting Holliday, 36, in his familiar No. 3 hole in the order. Holliday was 1-for-4 with two strikeouts in a 4-3 triumph over the Chicago Cubs.

“I’m seeing some hard outs,” Matheny said. “I think he’s not immune to falling into the trap that all the young guys do, too. You make some hard outs, make some good swings and you’re not getting results. Then all of a sudden, everybody wants to ask questions like, ‘What’s wrong with Holliday?’ when they shouldn’t.

“Hopefully, he’s not asking that to himself because he’s a guy that’s been around this game a long time. It’s hard not to (question yourself). It’s a results-oriented game and he wants to see the results.”

I’m seeing some hard outs. I think he’s not immune to falling into the trap that all the young guys do, too. You make some hard outs, make some good swings and you’re not getting results. Then all of a sudden, everybody wants to ask questions like, ‘What’s wrong with Holliday?’ when they shouldn’t.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny on Matt Holliday

Holliday’s slide has followed a six-game road trip in which he batted .333 (9-for-27) with two doubles, three home runs and five RBIs. However, he was hitless in three of those games.

“That trip out west were some of the best swings I’ve seen him take in years,” Matheny said. “We’re seeing some bat speed and he looks real strong physically. He’s in a good spot, so it’s just a matter of time until it all clicks. If he’s taking good at-bats, he’s dangerous.”

Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who brought his club into Busch Stadium for the opener of a three-game series Monday, still has great respect for Holliday.

“Ask the Cardinals what they think about (Anthony) Rizzo,” Maddon said. “He’s pretty imposing even though he’s struggling (1-for-25). You never take those guys for granted. They’re professional hitters who can hurt you at any moment.

“Even if a guy like (Holliday) is not going very good, he’s always dangerous. You’ve just got to be careful. He’ll be back. As long as he’s well, he’s going to be fine.”

Heyward sits

Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward, the former Cardinal, did not play Monday although he took batting practice in the inside cages and on the field.

Heyward suffered bruised right ribs Friday when he slammed to the turf after making a sensational catch against San Francisco. He was projected to miss three to five days.

“If it was up to me, I would be playing right now,” Heyward said.

Maddon said it’s possible Heyward could play as early as Tuesday.

“I’ve got an open mind about all this,” Maddon said. “From the beginning, we were talking three to five (days), and it might end up being just that. If he’s fine, I have no problem with (playing him) whatsoever. I’ll listen to him and the medical guys. If they have no issue with it, yes, absolutely, we’ll take him back.”

Heyward signed an eight-year, $184-million free-agent deal with the Cubs in December. While he has played his usual Gold-Glove defense, the Chicago still is waiting for his bat to come around. Heyward is batting just .225 with one home run and 14 RBIs in 37 games.

Peralta still rehabbing

Shortstop Jhonny Peralta remains at low-Class A Peoria as he rehabs the ligament in his left thumb. Peralta, who has not played this season, was 1-for-7 in his first three games.

“He’s continuing to get work,” Matheny said. “He’s progressing.”

Peralta also has played third base at Peoria, and could see time at that position when he rejoins the Cardinals, whose infield possibilities are many.

Outfielder Tommy Pham is still at Class AAA Memphis, where he is batting .214 (6-for-28) with one double in nine games. Pham strained his left oblique in the season opener in Pittsburgh. He was activated from the disabled list and optioned to Memphis last week.

“He’s just playing,” Matheny. “He’s trying to be a guy that’s going to be the one that makes it obvious that he should be here if the opportunity presents itself.”

Grichuk’s back

Center fielder Randal Grichuk left the game Thursday after tweaking his back while making a throw against the Colorado Rockies. But the Grichuk said it’s not related to the back injury that landed him on the disabled list last season.

“This was totally different,” Grichuk said Monday before making his third consecutive start since the injury. “I worked it out, got some treatment and I’m ready to go.

“When I hurt my back (last season), I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t move. It took my breath away. It was totally different. This just kind of like a little tweak, like, ‘Hey, maybe some treatment. Maybe an off day and I’ll be good to go.’ I get treatment and kind of activate those muscles around it. But it’s nothing that me or the training are worried about.”

Grichuk backed that up by clobbering a two-out, bases-empty homer in the ninth against Adam Warren to give the Cardinals their thrilling win over the Cubs.

Lackey flies with team

The Cubs played Sunday night in San Francisco and didn’t arrive in St. Louis until the early morning hours Monday. John Lackey, who started on the mound for Chicago on Monday, flew with his teammates rather than leave earlier to get extra rest.

Why?

“Because he probably likes charter flights over commercial,” Maddon said. “I was the same way. Given that opportunity to go commercial and getting in a couple of hours early, I’ll take charter. Standing in line at commercial airlines is absolutely crazy.”

David Wilhelm: 618-239-2665, @DavidMWilhelm

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