08/12/2002 7:34 pm ET
MLBeat: Vina adds walks to offense
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
PITTSBURGH -- The best leadoff men are the ones who get on base. Whether by a base hit, walk or any other means, that's the key. Fernando Vina's M.O. has typically been a combination of stroking base hits and getting hit by pitches, but lately the St. Louis second baseman has been taking a few more walks, too.
"I'm trying to work some things, see some more pitches," Vina said. "It's tough sometimes. Sometimes you don't get an opportunity (to walk), if they can get ahead of you. But I've been trying to work deeper into counts, try to shake off some of this bad luck you have here every now and then.
"I'm hitting .270, and I don't think I'm a .270 hitter. I think I'm a .290-.300 hitter. I've had a little bad luck this year, one of them years. Trying to do whatever I can to help the club."
The approach not only goes against Vina's history, but it's also somewhat counter to the philosophy of manager Tony La Russa and hitting coach Mitchell Paige.
"You've always got to balance aggressive with selective," La Russa said. "If they start throwing strike one all the time, he's got to let it go. (Sunday) he hit a 1-0 fastball for a double that started the game. It's all adjusting. Changes almost week to week."
Vina has walked nine times in the last 11 games. The last time he drew that many walks in a full month was May of 2000, when he amassed 12 free passes.
Where's Woody? Right-hander Woody Williams was scheduled to join the team a bit late in Pittsburgh, because he attended the Players Association executive board meeting in Chicago on Monday. La Russa said once he gets a chance to talk with Williams, the team will decide on its next course of action with the veteran.
"He checks in here, see how he feels, determine his next move. Throw batting practice or just throw in a bullpen either one. Nothing too serious."
La Russa said Williams is not yet ready to pitch a simulated game.
Now that's a lineup: The Cardinals lineup Monday featured J.D. Drew in the No. 8 spot for the second time in the past three games. La Russa said it was not intended as a wakeup call or an attempt to break Drew out of a slump.
"He's in the lineup," La Russa said. "There's guys sitting around that are not in the lineup. This team has three left-hand relievers. Some games you try to avoid stacking (lefty hitters). Plus, you've got (Pirates starter Brian) Meadows, who's done better against lefties than righties, and Edgar (Renteria) has a good history against him so he's hitting second. J.D.'s hitting eighth. Wednesday and Thursday you might see J.D. in the second spot."
Fantasy edge: With the Redbirds' recent offensive struggles, the team has tried some creative tactics on the basepaths in an attempt to make things happen. Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds are among those who have stolen bases this month. Don't be surprised to see a little more of that, with steal chances for nearly everyone in the order.
Matthew Leach covers the Cardinals for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.