05/29/12 7:43 PM ET
In an effort to contain Braves, Cards use shifts
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
The decision to shift various infielders out of their natural spots when Dan Uggla, Brian McCann and Eric Hinske batted on Monday was partially in response to their propensity to hit pitches to a certain part of the field. It was, however, also a reaction to the fits Atlanta's offense caused the Cardinals during a series earlier this month.
The Braves scored 23 times against Cards' pitching from May 11-13.
"I think it all came to a head here," Matheny said. "I've had the data here for a while and have been hesitant to use it much. But when we came up against a team that we were having a hard time how to figure them out, we're going to use anything we can when it presents itself."
The Cardinals' infield shifts were particularly magnified in the fourth inning. Uggla benefited from it, dropping a two-out single into right field when second baseman Tyler Greene was shaded toward center. Two more hits followed, leading to two Atlanta runs.
But the shift also worked in the frame. This time playing in shallow right field, Greene snared a sharply hit grounder by Hinske to rob him of a hit and end the inning.
"It's a tool," Matheny said. "I don't think it's the end all, be all. It's not going to fit for everybody. If there is an advantage, we're going to try it.
"I like playing the odds. I really do. I think you're crazy not to look at all the information you can look at. There's going to be some people that don't like it. As long as our guys understand what we're doing and we give them the information to show why we're doing it, I think it's worth a shot."
It is not, Matheny reiterated, something that the Cardinals will do each series. Part of their evaluation, too, is listening to what opposing players say when defenses shift against them. If Matheny gets the impression that shifting his infielders will likely lead to a hitter trying to change his approach, it's something he's more likely to employ.
"We're going to do anything, whether it's conventional or not, that we think is going to give us an advantage," Matheny said. "We go in with informed decisions and live and die with it."
The success of shifts doesn't just lie with the percentages on stat sheets and the defense's ability to make plays, either. It also is reliant on pitchers pitching batters in a way that increases the chance that they hit a ball in a certain direction. That's why the Cardinals will alter this strategy based upon who is pitching on a given day. They will not shift if it comes at the expense of allowing a pitcher to pitch to his strengths.
As for the preparation, it is fairly minimal on the infielders' part. Infield coach Jose Oquendo, who is not a strong advocate of such exaggerated positioning, addressed it with his group before Monday's game, but there was no specific practicing of defensive alignment ahead of time.
"The evidence has to be right," Oquendo said. "Even if I'm not big on it, when evidence is there, I do it."
Freese remains out, may sit Wednesday, too
ATLANTA -- Cardinals third baseman David Freese, who is nursing a sore right wrist, remained out of the lineup on Tuesday. There is a strong likelihood he won't start Wednesday's series finale either, as that would give him another pair of days, when coupled with Thursday's off-day, to improve.
Though Freese said his wrist was "a little better" than it was on Monday, he added that "it's still aggravating." As a result, Freese spent much of Tuesday afternoon in the trainer's room receiving treatment.
"It's kind of constant," Freese said of the tightness. "I'm just trying to get the inflammation out and get it moving along."
Freese did not take batting practice on Tuesday, though manager Mike Matheny did say his third baseman would be available off the bench.
There is no plan for Freese to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging scan on his hand. An X-ray taken a few days ago showed no structural damage. Freese sustained the injury on a diving play during the team's recent series against the Phillies.
"It's bothering him enough that it's not right," Matheny said. "I don't know if we could get ahead of it except by giving it the rest that it needs."
Though he remains on the disabled list with mild right shoulder tendinitis, pitcher Carlos Martinez will be promoted to from high Class A to Double-A. When he comes off the DL, Martinez will remain with the Springfield club. Martinez, 20, is ranked by MLB.com as the organization's second-best prospect. He went 2-2 with a 3.00 ERA in 33 innings with Palm Beach.
Catcher Cody Stanley has been placed on the high Class A Palm Beach roster after serving his 50-game suspension for violating the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Stanley's suspension was announced in Spring Training after he tested positive for Methylhexaneamine and Tamoxifen. He took part in extended spring training workouts during the suspension.
Left-hander Kevin Siegrist has been placed on the high Class A disabled list with a scapula injury on his non-throwing arm, but he is expected to come off the DL on Sunday to make his next scheduled start. In four starts this season, Siegrist has allowed eight earned runs on 14 hits in 20 1/3 innings.
Losers of eight straight, the Braves juggled their batting order on Tuesday and put pitcher Randall Delgado in the eighth spot in the lineup. It marked the first time Atlanta has hit its pitcher eighth this season. When asked if he'd consider employing such a strategy, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said that he would "never say never."
"If there was a huge advantage to it then I would do it," Matheny added. "I understand trying to do anything to get something going."
During his tenure as a special assistant in the player development system, Matheny was asked to assist the Cardinals with preparation for the First-Year Player Draft. Most of that help came in the form of watching video and offering his thoughts on potential picks. This summer's Draft sits less than a week away, but to this point, Matheny has not been involved in the scouting process.
"I don't know if they feel like I have enough on my plate right now or not, but for whatever reason, I haven't been a part of it this year," Matheny said. "If they needed my help or my opinion, I usually have one. They haven't asked."
With eight wins in 10 starts, right-hander Lance Lynn has joined some elite Cardinals company. Only Bob Gibson reached eight wins quicker in a season, doing so in nine starts in 1965. The only other two St. Louis pitchers to win eight of their first 10 starts in a year were Garrett Stephenson (2000) and Jesse Haines (1929).
Erik Komatsu, who the Cardinals selected from the Nationals in December's Rule 5 Draft, has made his way back to Washington. After being designated for assignment by St. Louis at the beginning of May, Komatsu landed with the Twins. His stay there lasted a little more than three weeks before he was again designated for assignment. Komatsu went unclaimed this time and was therefore returned to the Nationals.
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.