STL@SF: Craig ends inning with a double play

ST. LOUIS -- For the first time this year, the Cardinals featured a shortstop other than Pete Kozma in their starting lineup. Daniel Descalso drew the assignment on Saturday, giving Kozma the chance to rest and getting Descalso some repetitions at a position where he is the only backup option on the Major League roster.

"We can't go too long without letting these guys play the position that they may need to play," manager Mike Matheny said in reference to Descalso.

Finding somewhat regular playing time for Descalso will require inserting him for periodic starts at shortstop, as it appears Matt Carpenter will draw the bulk of the team's starts at second. While the Cardinals have not explicitly said as much, it's clear that Matheny wants to keep Carpenter's bat in the lineup as regularly as possible.

Carpenter entered Saturday with 14 hits and a .359 batting average. He leads the National League with 11 runs scored and already has five multi-hit games.

Matheny also shuffled the middle of his batting order on Saturday in an attempt to jump start Allen Craig. Craig, who has been the team's cleanup hitter, batted in the No. 5 hole, behind Carlos Beltran, against Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo.

Craig opened the season with just eight hits in 38 at-bats. He entered Saturday hitless in four previous at-bats against Gallardo.

"Sometimes moving guys to different positions could help get them going," Matheny said. "Allen is close but could use a little bump."

Molina showing durability already this season

MIL@STL: Molina's solo homer extends Cardinals' lead

ST. LOUIS -- Manager Mike Matheny has, thus far, followed through on his promise to keep his bench players involved by resting his regulars from time to time. The exception, of course, has been Tony Cruz, whose job as a backup to Yadier Molina involves especially sporadic playing time.

After playing regularly throughout Spring Training, Cruz has made just two plate appearances and logged only one inning defensively in the field.

"It's very tough," Matheny said of finding at-bats for Cruz, the only backup catcher on the roster. "He's handled it well. He does a lot of work. It's just the offensive timing is what it is at this point. To simulate game speed is extremely difficult to do. He's doing as well as anybody could."

The team's pair of early off-days has allowed Matheny the opportunity to depend Molina a lot this month. Molina and outfielder Jon Jay are the only two Cardinals to start all 11 games this season.

Durability has long been a point of pride for Molina, who has started at least 130 games in each of the last four seasons. His 974 starts since 2005 rank first among all National League catchers.

"He feels good, and he's one of the guys who we rely on how he feels," Matheny said of Molina. "We keep an eye on how he's moving around. If he does get banged up back there, which does happen, we'll adjust. The days off had been pretty good timing so far."

Worth noting

• The Cardinals unveiled a new alternate, cream-colored jersey during the offseason and debuted it on the field for the first time on Saturday. The jersey is distinguished by the presence of "St. Louis" and not "Cardinals" across the front and under the 'Birds on the Bat' logo.

• Prior to Saturday's first pitch, the Cardinals recognized the St. Louis University basketball team during an on-field ceremony. SLU captured the Atlantic 10 basketball title last month. Head coach Jim Crews threw out a ceremonial first pitch.

• A press conference has been scheduled at Busch Stadium on Monday, during which Southeast Missouri State University and Southern Illinois University will announce a fall football game between the two universities at Busch Stadium. This will mark the first NCAA football game ever to be played at Busch Stadium.

• Both Oscar Taveras and Ryan Jackson tallied four hits in Triple-A Memphis' 10-6 win over Oklahoma City on Friday night. Pitching prospect Michael Wacha is scheduled to make his second Triple-A start on Saturday.