6/23/2013 8:28 P.M. ET
Blazek latest Cards rookie pitcher to impress
By Chad Thornburg / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- Michael Blazek became the 10th rookie pitcher to appear in a game for the Cardinals this season, and the right-hander fit right in.
Blazek struck out two in a scoreless ninth inning Saturday on a night when all four Cardinals were rookies, continuing a run of success by the first-year relievers in St. Louis.
"When we're handing them the ball, we don't know anything," said manager Mike Matheny. "We're hoping that it's going to turn out like it has, and it's nice to see a Michael Blazek jump on board, like a lot of these other young guys have been able to do, and just go out there and make good pitches."
Shelby Miller, who, along with Trevor Rosenthal, is one of the longest-tenured rookies on the club, made his 15th start of the season Saturday. Kevin Siegrist, who debuted earlier this month, made his eighth consecutive scoreless appearance, having yet to surrender a big league run. Seth Maness took over for Miller in the sixth with the bases loaded and induced his ninth double play of the season over 23 appearances.
The seven rookie hurlers on the big league roster -- in addition to Tyler Lyons, Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez, who have since returned to the Minors -- have been crucial to the Cardinals' success this season.
"We do realize that they are young and they still have a lot to learn," Matheny said. "We're going to continue to watch them and figure out how we can help them move forward. But they've definitely, for the most part all of them, have done a really nice job of coming in at least right from the top, showing what they can do and that gives us opportunities to use them in different situations."
Craig setting example for Cards with his bat
ST. LOUIS -- In most other clubhouses, Allen Craig would be the young guy. But in St. Louis, Craig, 28 years old in his fourth season, is nearly a veteran.
With a dozen players age 26 or younger on the active roster, the Cardinals have the seventh-youngest team in the Majors.
"That makes guys like myself, and [David] Freese and that group of guys seem a little bit older, because we've been around for a few years now," Craig said. "But we're still young in our careers and still trying to figure it out a little bit."
Craig has become one of the most reliable players in the Cardinals lineup. His 21 RBIs in June are the most he's had in one month in the Majors, with five games still remaining before July.
"I guess I've been seeing the ball pretty well," said Craig, who was unaware of the milestone. "I try to evaluate the game as it's going and see what pitchers are doing. I just try to be smart up there and stay focused and not miss the pitches that I'm given to hit."
Craig has come through in a big way for the Cardinals in clutch situations this season. Entering Sunday's game, the first baseman was batting .348 (32-for-92) and drove home 31 runners with two outs on the board. With runners in scoring position, Craig has driven in 52 runs while hitting .453 (34-for-75).
Most impressively, with both two outs and runners in scoring position, Craig is batting .500 (19-for-38) with 28 RBIs.
"Every guy I feel like in our lineup has that kind of selfish attitude when they're up there. They want to be the guy that drives them in," Craig said. "But we do it in a good way, where we try to pass the baton and just get a base hit and let the next guy have a shot at driving you in. We have a good thing going, and we're just going to keep it going."
DH rule brings opportunity to Matheny, Cards
ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals are in the midst of an 11-game stretch against American League teams, and beginning Tuesday, the final eight will be played in AL cities, where St. Louis will need to adjust its lineup to include a designated hitter.
Manager Mike Matheny said he will "see how it all plays out," but that there will be plenty of opportunities to get Matt Adams' bat into the lineup. The AL rules may also allow for Matheny to give a player essentially a half-day off, moving them from their normal positions to the DH.
"Get guys rest who need rest," Matheny said of his plan. "And how exactly that plays out, we'll wait until we get there. There's quite a few of these everyday players that could use a day to DH and get off their feet."
As for letting Tony Cruz give Yadier Molina a day off at catcher while Molina slides to DH, Matheny said it may be easier said than done.
"That's always an option, but Yadi also likes to play," Matheny said. "And when I say play, it's not just going in there and hitting. He likes to catch. … Would we like to get Tony more action? All season the answer has been yes. But when we have Yadi feeling good and he looks good, then it's hard to take him out. He loves to play."
Matheny said the club likes the roster as currently constructed and there are no plans to make a move to add another position player to the mix for the road trip.
Cardinals taking time with rotation situation
ST. LOUIS -- With three off-days in the next two weeks, the Cardinals are taking their time to weigh the options for the open spot in the rotation.
For the time being, Joe Kelly is being prepped as a fill-in starter and could also be a potential long-term solution.
"We've made known to Joe that he's going to have to stay flexible," manager Mike Matheny said. "He's right where he needs to be, and we'll just kind of read how the other guys go, what kind of laboring they're doing with their starts. If you've got time, you might as well use it to your advantage."
Matheny said it's possible the team will go with a four-man rotation for the entirety of its eight-game road trip, but that would eliminate any opportunities to give a pitcher an extra day of rest.
"I know this is going to be the same conversation and probably the same answer we're going to have here for a few days," Matheny said. "It's just, there's no sense in setting our feet in stone in something when we've got more things that we can learn to let us know what the right decision is."
• The Kansas City Royals have claimed Maikel Cleto off waivers from Triple-A Memphis. The Cardinals acquired the 24-year-old right-hander in 2010 in a trade with the Mariners. He made one appearance in St. Louis this season, surrendering five earned runs on five hits (one homer) and one walk in 2 1/3 innings against the D-backs.
• Edward Mujica is 21-for-21 in save opportunities this season, which is the best start to a season for a Cardinals closer since Tom Henke went perfect in his first 22 save opportunities in 1995.
Chad Thornburg is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.