St. Louis Cardinals

Eye-opener: Cardinals’ Diaz almost ready; Holliday’s bat brings him back

Aledmys Diaz’s condition is improving, but the St. Louis Cardinals’ rookie shortstop did not start Wednesday night in the series opener against Kansas City.

Diaz visited the Cardinals’ ophthalmologist Wednesday morning, and although there is no long-term damage to his right eye, swelling remains.

“He’s good,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “Everything came back really positive. The swelling went down significantly. He could potentially be available (Wednesday), but certainly in the next day or so, he should be good.”

Diaz was struck in the eye Monday when he fouled a ball in the dirt. It ricocheted into his eye, forcing him to exit the game in Kansas City. Diaz did not play Tuesday.

Diaz was in full catcher’s gear in the dugout Wednesday when Carlos Martinez made the first pitch of the game. He was not available to play.

As long as his swelling is down to where he can see like he needs to, that would kind of be the go-ahead to let him get back in there. We hated to see it happen. You’re always concerned when you start talking about the eye. It’s nice to see he’s been able to bounce back quick and healing up fast.

St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny on the injury to shortstop Aledmys Diaz’s right eye

Diaz fielded grounders before the game Wednesday, but was not available in the clubhouse prior to the first pitch. Diaz is batting .316 with 21 doubles, 10 home runs and 40 RBIs in 71 games. His 81 hits lead the Cardinals.

“As long as his swelling is down to where he can see like he needs to, that would kind of be the go-ahead to let him get back in there,” Matheny said. “We hated to see it happen. You’re always concerned when you start talking about the eye. It’s nice to see he’s been able to bounce back quick and healing up fast.”

Bounce-back year

Left fielder Matt Holliday’s .254 average isn’t what he would like, but the 36-year-old has 14 doubles, 15 home runs and 47 RBIs in 73 games. Last year, Holliday had 16 doubles, four homers and 35 RBIs in 72 games.

“He’s just an important piece of our club,” Matheny said. “When he’s driving the ball and driving in runs ... And having that power, being able to make a big difference like he’s done all over the field. He’s hitting balls to straightaway right and into center field. Just overall, he’s had a good, solid approach.”

Health has been a key. Holliday had two quad injuries last season.

“He’s one of those hitters who, historically, has been able to do some pretty impressive things,” Matheny said. “I know last year was a real disappointment for himself, more than anything else. He wanted to come back this year motivated to do something different. He’s absolutely done that.

“One of those variables that’s in your control is how well you can take care of yourself. Matt is in the upper echelon of that. I’ve rarely seen anybody as disciplined as he is with his workout regimen, with his diet, with his rest. He’s been very disciplined and I think he’s reaping the dividends of that now.”

Carpenter an All-Star?

Second baseman Matt Carpenter has piled up All-Star numbers and has proved to be deserving of being among the National League’s best at the All-Star Game on July 12 in San Diego.

Carpenter is batting .298 with a team-high 24 doubles, 14 homers and 49 RBIs in 72 games. His 54 runs scored, .418 on-base percentage and .585 slugging percentage also top the Cardinals.

Carpenter is a distant third in balloting at third base. He opened the season as a third baseman before being shifted to second base June 7.

“Matt’s having a great year, but there’s only so many spots available,” Matheny said. “The way the system is now, we’re talking about trying to get the fans to support it, regardless of how much lobbying we can do.”

Voting concludes at 10:59 p.m. Thursday. Rosters for the NL and American League will be announced Tuesday.

New York Mets manager Terry Collins will decide whether Carpenter is among the extra players selected to the NL roster.

“There is sometimes that opportunity to be a little more flexible with a utility-style player,” Matheny said. “We’ll see how it kind of plays out.”

No problem for Peralta

Jhonny Peralta returned to action June 7 and was inserted as the Cardinals’ third baseman so Diaz could remain at shortstop.

Peralta has been unfazed by the change, committing just one error in his first 163 innings.

“You can just see his hands,” Matheny said. “That position over there is a timing position, where you have maybe a step and a dive. Once you get anything close to his glove, typically, he’s going to make the play. You’re going to be out. It’s been a good transition. The most important thing about all this is his willingness to do it.”

Peralta’s bat has been slow to fire, as he is .218 with two homers and nine RBIs. Peralta snapped an 0-for-20 skid with a single in the fifth inning Wednesday and finished 2-for-6.

“He believes he can be better,” Matheny said. “He wants to continue to get the reps and get the work to where he can be more consistent. But overall, he’s done a real nice job of making that adjustment.”

Morales moves to right

Switch-hitting Kendrys Morales normally is Kansas City’s designated hitter, but on Wednesday he started in right field as the team placed outfielder Lorenzo Cain on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring.

Morales, who played in the outfield for the first time since 2008, is too important for the Royals to have on the bench in interleague games played in National League stadiums. Morales is batting .255 with 10 homers and 37 RBIs.

“When you lose Cain’s bat, when you lose Morales’ bat coming to a National League park, that’s two big bats in your lineup,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “You can’t do that. That made it a lot easier for me to put (Morales) in there. We were thinking about it in (Philadelphia) because it’s a little bit smaller (park), but he’ll be fine.

“If I wasn’t comfortable with him, I wouldn’t put him out there. And he does shag (fly balls) like it’s a game in BP. He’s an athlete. He’ll be fine.”

David Wilhelm: 618-239-2665, @DavidMWilhelm

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