4/6/2014 7:11 P.M. ET
Descalso comes off bench for first start of '14
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
PITTSBURGH -- The Cardinals have had their share of infield shuffling over the past few years, something reinforced last week when the Cardinals sent an entirely new-look infield out for the opener. The longest-tenured infielder through it all has been Daniel Descalso, though he has also become, at least outside the clubhouse walls, the most easily forgotten.
Descalso entered Spring Training with a slim chance to win regular playing time regardless of what he did. The organization's signing of Jhonny Peralta took him out of the mix at short. Matt Carpenter moving to third will limit opportunities there. And the Cardinals made it no secret that they wanted to give Kolten Wong the first chance at second.
Descalso batted .333 in Grapefruit League play, the second-best average by any position player on the Cardinals' Opening Day roster. There was little he would have been able to do, though, to start anywhere but the bench.
Now, the challenge is for Descalso to try to sustain momentum from that strong spring amid inconsistent playing time. Ten days after his final appearance of the spring, Descalso found himself in the starting lineup for the first time Sunday.
"He's just such a good player all the way around and brings so many different things to the table," manager Mike Matheny said. "Dan goes out there with the intent that there are a lot of things being said about how things are going to play out and it's just something he can't control. What he can control is how he goes out and plays and prepares. Today's one of those days where he can show what he can do. All spring, he was doing the same thing."
Descalso, 3-for-8 in his career against Edinson Volquez, made the start at second, a position he played only sparingly last season because of Carpenter's strong season. He opened the season 0-for-3 off the bench.
"He doesn't let anything get in the way of what he thinks of himself and what he believes," Matheny said. "The thing, fortunately for him, is that we believe it, too. I think he is just a terrific baseball player. And how it fits, you just never know. We're excited to give him opportunities like today, and every time we get him out there to play we know we're going to get a guy that's giving every single thing he's got and not holding back.
"I just want him to stay right where he is and keep going. He prepared very well for the spring, and he's doing all the work he needs to right now, too."
Craig dropped to sixth spot in lineup
PITTSBURGH -- Seeking a way to spark Allen Craig at the plate, manager Mike Matheny dropped his usual cleanup hitter into the sixth spot of the lineup Sunday. With Craig's timing still a tick off, though, the shuffle did not produce immediate dividends.
The Cardinals' right fielder finished 0-for-3, leaving him 2-for-22 on this opening road trip. Craig said afterward that he is continuing to watch video of himself to try to make the necessary adjustments to get back the timing he felt he had coming out of Spring Training.
"I feel OK," Craig said. "Obviously, it's not the ideal start for me personally. Six games into the year and there's a lot of good baseball to be played. I'm looking forward to that. I'm working through some things and going to make some adjustments and just get better. I feel OK."
Craig had one hit taken away by the Pirates' defense shifting, something Pittsburgh does more aggressively than most teams. Craig rarely sees a shift employed against him elsewhere.
Craig didn't get off to an exceptionally quick start last year, either. He opened the 2013 season with eight hits in his first 38 at-bats. He didn't hit his first home run until his 28th game of the season.
"He had a pretty good spring and is just now having trouble finding a rhythm," Matheny said. "He'll get there. He's expanding a little more than he normally does. It looks like they're making good pitches on him, too. … He's a very, very good hitter. He just has to trust himself and he'll come around."
Bourjos frustrated with slow start to season
PITTSBURGH -- Manager Mike Matheny insisted that the decision to switch out center fielders Sunday had more to do with wanting to get Jon Jay a start than it did feeling the need to sit Peter Bourjos. Nevertheless, the day off offers Bourjos the opportunity to reset following a frustrating start to his Cardinals career.
Bourjos, who started four of the Cardinals' first five games, is still seeking his first hit. He has made some hard contact and would have had a bunt single Friday if not for a terrific defensive play by Pirates catcher Russell Martin. To this point, nothing has fallen in.
"It would be nice to have one of those where I found a hole and get the first one out of the way, and obviously it hasn't gone that way," Bourjos said. "But in the grand scheme of things, it's been four games and 13 at-bats, and I'm not going to let those 13 at-bats define how the rest of the year is going to go."
Bourjos said he felt "really good" at the plate in Cincinnati after striking out in his first at-bat of the season. He was encouraged by the process Friday, too, against Pittsburgh's Gerrit Cole. He drew a walk Saturday but was otherwise less-than-pleased with how his at-bats went in that St. Louis win.
"It's tough when you take a good swing and you don't feel like you get any results," Bourjos said. "But that's how it goes sometimes."
The Cardinals have not defined how they will split playing time between Jay and Bourjos, though it was expected that Bourjos' defensive range would put him in line to make the majority of starts in center. Defense alone, though, won't suffice, as the Cardinals are also looking for Bourjos to show he can hold his own offensively.
"New team or been around a long time, you want to get off to a good start," Matheny said. "He's hit some balls hard and hasn't had much luck. He had some good plays made against him. He's pressing. He's pushing hard right now. He'll get through it. He's a lot like a Matt Carpenter where he's probably more likely to overwork now more than anything else. We need him to trust himself, trust where he fits into this club and it will turn."
• Tom Cooney, ranked by MLB.com as the Cardinals' 10th-best prospect, allowed one run and four hits over six innings in his Triple-A debut Saturday. He also struck out nine in Memphis' 11-1 victory. Leading the offense was catcher Audry Perez, who connected for a grand slam and finished with five RBIs.
• Aledmys Diaz, the 23-year-old Cuban shortstop the Cardinals signed on March 9, has made three pinch-hit appearances for Springfield [Mo.] since the Double-A season began. The Cardinals have delayed giving him his first start as they continue to get him into better game shape. Diaz was ineligible to play in games for about 18 months preceding his signing.
• Tony La Russa (11 a.m. CT) and Lou Brock (11:15 a.m. CT) will make guest appearances in the Chatting Cage, sponsored by MLB.com and Edward Jones, on Monday. By going to MLB.com/chattingcage, fans can participate in the video chat and ask questions of both La Russa and Brock.
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.