04/07/12 4:53 PM ET
Changeup a key tool in Boggs' new arsenal
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
Boggs utilized the changeup fairly frequently this spring with the intention of then leaning on the pitch more heavily during the regular season. According to fangraphs.com, only 1.3 percent of the pitches Boggs threw last year were changeups. That represented a sharp decrease from Boggs' days as a starting pitcher.
In his 22-pitch season debut on Friday, Boggs didn't abandon the changeup. In fact, he threw two consecutively to the first batter he faced. The second induced a forceout.
Would he have thrown a pair of changeups in the same situation last season?
"I probably wouldn't have even thought about it," Boggs answered. "I would have gone to my breaking ball or tried to get him out with a sinker. It is good for me to have another weapon, and I certainly have seen the benefits of it. That just reinforces that it can be a big-time pitch for me."
The changeup Boggs is now utilizing is a slightly different version of the pitch he has thrown in the past. Taking a suggestion from right-hander Adam Wainwright, Boggs changed his grip early in camp. He described the new pitch as having "more depth" than his old changeup.
Though he'll still rely predominantly on his sinker, Boggs also plans to incorporate more sliders. He threw four on Friday, three of which were strikes. Boggs' hesitancy to go to the pitch more often in the past has often been because he lacked the ability to control it well enough.
In his two-inning appearance against the Brewers, Boggs struck out two and allowed only one runner to reach base.
"I think Spring Training and [Friday] showed that just keeping them off my fastball as much as I can is going to benefit me," Boggs said. "The sinker is a pitch I can certainly compete with, but it's not the only pitch I want to compete with. I want it to be as good as it can possibly be, and I think using my other two pitches only makes my sinker that much better."
Cards expect first lineup shakeup vs. lefty
MILWAUKEE -- A mere three games into his managerial tenure, Mike Matheny has already shown a consistency that Tony La Russa never did last season. Consistency with the lineup, that is.
With the starting pitcher the only exception, Matheny's lineup card has been identical in each of the team's first three games. La Russa, who was well known for his propensity to tinker with batting orders, never used the same one more than twice in a row last year.
In fact, the last time a Cardinals manager showed such consistency was from Aug. 9-14, 2010, when La Russa utilized the same lineup for five consecutive games. The pitcher hit eighth in each of those contests.
"Things just lined up that way," Matheny said, noting that the Cardinals opened the season by facing three of the league's better right-handed starters.
This current streak, though, will stop at three, as Matheny intends to insert some new faces into the lineup on Sunday, when the Cardinals face their first lefty starter of the season. One inclusion will be Tyler Greene, who is expected to get the start at second base.
Matheny confirmed that Greene would not be the only new insertion. Among the other changes being considered is shifting Carlos Beltran to center field. That would open up a spot in right field, presumably for right-handed-hitting Shane Robinson to fill. The Cardinals' other two reserve outfielders -- Erik Komatsu and Matt Carpenter -- both hit from the left side, as does Jon Jay.
"Any time we face a lefty, I think that's an option," Matheny said of the Beltran in center field scenario. "We're still going through numbers to make sure we feel good about that."
Cards following Matheny's aggressive lead
MILWAUKEE -- While not actively seeking to craft a new identity for his offense, manager Mike Matheny spent the spring encouraging his players to step up their aggressiveness. The purpose behind the push was done not to force stolen bases upon anyone, but to improve instincts on the basepaths.
"I wanted them to get in their mind to be thinking on the bases," Matheny said.
The sample size is tiny, but through two games, the Cardinals have shown some signs of increased aggressiveness. In addition to swiping three bases in four tries, there have been two attempts to stretch singles into doubles -- one successfully, the other not. Rafael Furcal has stolen two bases; Carlos Beltran, the other.
Matheny has said he won't grant an automatic green light to anyone, preferring to keep some of the control on when players run in the dugout.
The Cardinals stole only 57 bases last season, a total that ranked 29th in baseball. The club finished at the bottom in terms of success rate with its 59 percent mark.
"We have a couple guys who have a good history of being able to take a base in the right situation and have good instincts with that," Matheny said. "We'll continue to be aggressive when it makes sense."
This Cardinals club already accomplished something that no other team in franchise history had by knocking at least 13 hits in its first two games of the season, according to a researcher at the Society for American Baseball Research. St. Louis collected 13 hits on Opening Day and then 16 in a win over Milwaukee on Friday. The last team to open a season with at least 13 hits in three straight games was the 2001 Rockies.
With two hits on Friday, Carlos Beltran began the year 4-for-9 with three runs scored and a stolen base. His performance in the first game of this series caught the attention of Brewers manager Ron Roenicke.
"Carlos Beltran has been one of the best offensive players in this game for a long time," Roenicke said. "I know he's getting older, but this guy can really play."
Triple-A Memphis first baseman Matt Adams connected for another home run in Memphis' loss on Friday, giving Adams two in as many games at that level. He finished the night 2-for-5, with his other hit a double.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.