4/8/2014 7:35 P.M. ET
A shift on defense, and in thinking
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- The remark came from one of the Cardinals' starters on Monday as second baseman Kolten Wong fielded the ground ball in short right field and threw on to first for an out that was routine only because of Wong's unorthodox positioning.
"Man," the pitcher said. "I just love that shift."
Manager Mike Matheny heard, and he grinned as he relayed the story a day later. When the Cardinals first started incorporating more aggressive defensive shifting under Matheny two seasons ago, he had pushback from some of the pitchers. Not all of them wanted to pitch to the shift, and frustration would sometimes show when balls got through the infield because of the shift.
Gradually, as more data has been shared and on-field proof of success has piled up, there has been more of a buy-in.
"It really wasn't something I had seen enough information to be completely sold on as well," Matheny confessed on Tuesday. "I'm just as guilty, or was. We just continue to get information, continue to share it with the guys and just open conversation."
The Cardinals have shown that they will be more aggressive with their defensive shifting this season. The organization is also going to incorporate infield shifting at the Minor League levels to prepare their players for it.
Matheny to find a place for this ring: on his finger
ST. LOUIS -- Manager Mike Matheny has long displayed his 2004 National League champions ring, but rarely has he worn it. He plans, however, to make his 2013 edition much more visible.
Matheny, members of his staff, the organization's Hall of Famers and players from the Cardinals' 2013 pennant-winning club were presented with those league championship rings during a pregame ceremony on Tuesday. Each ring is 14-karat white gold and features 43 diamonds and 34 rubies, in total weighing 47 grams. The "STL" logo is in center and circled with the words "National League Champions Cardinals."
It marked the second time in two years that the Cardinals have had a ring ceremony during their opening homestand. Thirteen of the players to receive a ring on Tuesday, though, were getting their first with the Cardinals. This was also the first ring won by Matheny, the manager.
His other big league bling came from being a member of the 2004 Cardinals, who also lost to the Red Sox in the World Series.
"I'm going to be wearing this one," Matheny said. "My fingers have been busted up pretty bad, so they don't hold rings very well. But I'm going to make sure that this one stays on me."
He was asked why he would display this differently than the first.
"I think as a player, it was something that I put in a special place so people could see it," Matheny said. "I don't know why exactly. I think a lot of it was I wanted to be motivated about getting that next one. And I think that's kind of why I'm going to wear this one. It's something special. When you see that banner get raised, it's a big deal. I want these guys to realize it's a big deal and was a big deal to me what we were able to accomplish last year. It's also a good reminder, too, that we had one step left. It's something I'm real proud of. I'm proud of what this group was able to do last year."
Motte says simulated game 'went well'
ST. LOUIS -- Reliever Jason Motte threw 19 pitches in a simulated game on Tuesday, representing the latest step forward in his rehab process.
Motte, via text, said he recorded four or five outs and added that he "felt good. Good effort. Went well." Now 11 months removed from Tommy John surgery, Motte has been throwing simulated games about every third day for three weeks now. He said he is scheduled to pitch again on Friday, after making a quick trip to St. Louis to participate in a charity event on Thursday.
The Cardinals have not announced when Motte will transition from pitching in simulated or extended spring training games to facing hitters at higher Minor League levels on a rehab assignment. Motte is on track to return to the Cardinals' bullpen in May.
"We're just happy that every time he goes out there," manager Mike Matheny said, "the next day he says he feels great."
• A day after the Cardinals stopped the Reds' early momentum by catching quick Billy Hamilton in a rundown between third and home, manager Mike Matheny said on Tuesday that that was evidence of work well done in Spring Training. Second baseman Kolten Wong started the rundown and finished it as well; third baseman Matt Carpenter and catcher Yadier Molina were also involved.
"Rundowns are probably something we worked on more than any other of our mechanics this spring," Matheny said. "I'm real happy with how the guys ran that down. I thought that was a real nice execution. A guy like that could probably stay in until the batter/runner gets to third base. Timing couldn't have been any better."
• Outfield prospect Stephen Piscotty went 2-for-4 with an RBI in Triple-A Memphis' loss to Omaha on Monday. Joey Butler had a three-hit game, while Scott McGregor, Nick Greenwood and Sam Freeman each made multiple-inning appearances.
• Shortstop Aledmys Diaz went 4-for-5 with three RBIs, and outfielder James Ramsey tallied three hits and scored twice in Double-A Springfield's loss to Corpus Christi on Tuesday. Kurt Heyer gave Springfield a strong start as he allowed one run on four hits and struck out four in seven innings.
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.