05/15/2013 7:43 PM ET
As Cards click, Matheny won't mess with order
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- It was late last month when, with some frequency, manager Mike Matheny began plugging Matt Carpenter into the leadoff spot. At the time, the move was described as a short-term stopgap. Jon Jay was in an extended offensive funk, and no one else on the roster really profiled as a top-of-the-order bat.
Jay has since found his swing, having hit safely in 10 of his last 11 games. In the meantime, however, Carpenter has thrived from the top spot, leaving Matheny content to continue as is with the batting order until it is obvious that it requires any tinkering.
"The problem you run into is messing with something that is working," Matheny said. "With Jon hitting the way he is lower in the lineup and being productive down there, you don't want to give away that. And Matt getting on base the way he is, I'm sure it makes it pretty interesting when you bring up Carlos [Beltran], Matt [Holliday] and Allen [Craig] right behind him. It's working right now. We'll see how it looks later on."
Carpenter batted leadoff for the first time this season on April 18. In the 21 games he has played since, Carpenter has hit from the top in 16 of them. His .318 batting average as a leadoff hitter is the best in the National League, while his on-base percentage (.423) ranks second.
Carpenter has reached base in 14 of the 17 games in which he's hit leadoff and has reached base at least three times in each of the last four games. Before this season, Carpenter had hit leadoff only once in his Major League career.
"Mike, in spring, mentioned that this might be a possibility," Carpenter said. "I was ready for that opportunity. I've been in there the last couple of days and it's been going well. I'm just going to do whatever I can when I'm in there and have good at-bats."
Yadi given rare opportunity to recharge
ST. LOUIS -- Yadier Molina was bound to get a day off during this 10-game homestand, and after watching his catcher struggle at the plate on Tuesday, manager Mike Matheny chose to unplug the veteran from the lineup on Wednesday.
The off day is just the second in 39 games this season for Molina, who has caught all but 11 of the innings the Cardinals have played. That totals a Major League-high 330 1/3 innings behind the plate.
The club's early-season schedule -- which featured regular off-days and not too many day games following night ones -- has allowed Matheny to ride Molina as hard as he has. The Cardinals are now in a stretch of playing 29 games in 30 days. That, along with warming temperatures, will require Matheny to be more conservative with Molina's playing time moving forward.
Molina went 0-for-5 on Tuesday and was the only one of the team's starting position players to not reach base in the 10-4 win. After hitting in 11 straight games through Saturday, Molina has just one hit in 11 at-bats since.
"Yesterday was one of the first days where it just didn't look like everything was on timing-wise, as far as the swing goes," Matheny said. "Physically, he feels good. We're just getting him a day to try and get himself back into a good rhythm."
Carp satisfied with latest side-session results
ST. LOUIS -- Hours after attending a ceremony in which an area youth baseball field was dedicated in his name, Chris Carpenter took the mound in the Cardinals' bullpen to continue his comeback bid.
Carpenter threw a short side session at Busch Stadium on Wednesday, after which he expressed satisfaction with the way his arm continues to respond. The plan, Carpenter said, is to throw two more extended side sessions -- one on Saturday, another next Thursday -- with an abbreviated mound session in between on Monday.
After that series of work, Carpenter and the Cardinals will determine if the right-hander is ready to begin a Minor League rehab assignment.
"There's no question that it makes you feel like you're closer and makes you feel like you want to continue to go out there," Carpenter said. "I don't want to get ahead of myself. I want to slowly get back involved and make sure that I'm doing the things that I need to do to be ready when it's time."
Carpenter began his day in Berkeley, Mo., where Cardinals Care named a field used by members of the Berkeley Redbird Rookies program as Chris Carpenter Field. Carpenter said he was moved when, about a month ago, the Cardinals informed him of their plans to put his name on the facility.
"I never would have thought that at some point in time there would have been a field in my name," Carpenter said. "There's going to be a bunch of kids playing on it for a long time to come. It's a beautiful field. And I'll tell you what, it's a lot nicer than any field I ever played on as a kid. Hopefully they take care of it and that sometime there will be some Major League Baseball players coming out of there."
• Jake Westbrook, who is on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation, said he hopes to resume throwing on Friday. Westbrook will get a better indication of how his elbow is healing once he starts the throwing program but said he has noticed slight improvements already.
• Manager Mike Matheny confirmed that John Gast is slated to start on Sunday, which would be the next time Westbrook's place in the rotation comes up. The Cardinals expect Westbrook will miss only two starts, so if all goes as hoped, this would be Gast's last spot start.
• Daniel Descalso's small sample size of success against Mets righty Shaun Marcum (3-for-5) earned him a start at second base on Wednesday. Matt Carpenter moved to third, pushing David Freese to the bench.
• The Cardinals announced that WWE Hall of Famer Mike Foley and the WWE Divas the Bella Twins will sign autographs and take photos with fans at Busch Stadium beginning at 4:45 p.m. CT on Saturday. The free event will last until the 6:15 p.m. game start time.
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.