5/30/2014 8:22 P.M. ET
Craig's work to break early slump paying off
By Alex Halsted / MLB.com
ST LOUIS -- The Cardinals' Allen Craig looked for solutions in every possible way, trying to find the swing that made him an All-Star last season.
It took Craig until the final game of April to surpass the .200 mark with his batting average for the first time, and even then, things weren't quite right.
His recent stretch suggests he may have found it.
"That's the guy we know," manager Mike Matheny said. "He just keeps working; that's all he can do. I still stand behind that we'll sit back and look and all of a sudden Allen's right where Allen always is."
Entering Friday, Craig had collected hits in eight of the last nine games, hitting .417 (15-for-36) while watching his batting average climb 35 points to .255.
Last season, Craig hit .315 with 13 home runs and 97 RBIs. Work remains for him to reach those numbers, but his recent stretch has him headed back in the right direction.
"When you start a season and it carries for a long time, you try everything," Matheny said. "He's been working hard and I think he's been seeing the benefits of the work, because he looks good.
"Now he's just going to have to work hard to keep it."
Cardinals bring back Grichuk from Triple-A
ST LOUIS -- There was no big reveal. Randal Grichuk was simply called into the manager's office at Triple-A Memphis and told he was to report to Busch Stadium by batting practice Friday.
So Grichuk jumped into his 2010 Ford F-150 at 8 a.m. Friday and made the four-hour-or-so drive to St. Louis. The 22-year-old rookie stood happily in front of his locker at Busch Stadium hours later, his name in the No. 2 spot of the Cardinals' starting lineup, playing right field.
"You dream of coming up here your whole life, and when you finally get up here, it's a whirlwind," said Grichuk, the Cardinals' No. 11 prospect. "Now I can kind of relax, calm down and play my game."
Grichuk made his Major League debut in late April and between then and the first week of May appeared in nine games for the Cardinals, hitting .143. The Cardinals couldn't find enough at-bats for the young outfielder and optioned him back to Triple-A.
He has had success in the Minors, hitting .315 this season with a .589 slugging percentage, ranked fifth in the Pacific Coast League. The right-handed hitter has 10 home runs on the season, the latest coming Thursday night before his promotion.
The Cardinals have taken notice. Partly because of the lack of power hitter Matt Adams in recent games -- the first baseman wasn't in the lineup for the third straight game Friday due to a tight left calf -- and with trips to the American League next week, Grichuk got the call with Shane Robinson being optioned back to Triple-A.
"He just went back [down] and kept raking," manager Mike Matheny said of Grichuk. "He went back and never really missed a beat. He got right back after it and continued to do it up until last night."
Grichuk was acquired by St. Louis in the offseason along with Peter Bourjos in the trade that sent David Freese to the Angels.
After getting a taste of the Majors early in the season, Grichuk wasn't given any special instructions by Matheny or the Cardinals for his trip back to Triple-A. He took the move as an opportunity to work to improve at the plate.
"Obviously all guys that get sent down want to get up as soon as possible, but I went back down just trying to work on my game, tried to stay focused," Grichuk said. "A lot of guys go down there and I feel like they want to get up here so bad, they kind of lose focus on the task at hand, and that's playing the game."
Matheny and general manager John Mozeliak have had discussions about adding a bat with seven games in AL ballparks awaiting the Cardinals at the conclusion of the homestand. Grichuk also provides the ability to play all three outfield positions.
The key to bringing him up this time was being certain there would be playing time.
"We just all need to be on the same page before we bring up a kid and maybe send him back in his development," Matheny said. "It's hard to bring him up here just to watch him sit or be that emergency guy off the bench."
Martinez's woes have Cards rethinking eighth inning
ST LOUIS -- The struggles for 22-year-old Cardinals reliever Carlos Martinez during the month of May have been evident.
Even after Martinez tossed two scoreless innings against New York on Monday, his troubles returned Thursday when he allowed three baserunners and three earned runs while failing to finish the eighth inning that he started in a 6-5 loss to the Giants.
The performances leave Martinez fighting to find consistency.
"Just like a swing comes and goes, so does your slider. Just like a swing comes and goes, so does your sinker," manager Mike Matheny said. "The kid's fighting to find the consistency, and it'll come back. He'll be better for it in the long run like the rest of these guys when they struggle."
Meanwhile, Martinez's struggles have the Cardinals without a certain plan for eighth-inning situations. Matheny said the team would have typically gone to reliever Kevin Siegrist in Thursday's situation. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list last Saturday with a forearm strain.
"Now we're going to continue to look at it and figure out what we're going to do," Matheny said. "I don't see it as being something set in stone."
Martinez, who at times has blown hitters away with his triple-digit fastball, posted a 2.93 ERA in 13 appearances during April, but with the change in month have come difficulties.
The blown save in the eighth Thursday night was Martinez's fourth of the month. In May, he has allowed runners to reach base via hit or walk in 10 of 13 games and has posted a 7.11 ERA while allowing 15 hits, 10 earned runs and five walks in 12 2/3 innings.
Hitters are batting .300 off him this month.
"It just comes down to making good pitches," Matheny said. "Right now I think everybody knows his stuff -- we keep calling it electric and it is. You get too much of the plate to a good hitter, even with electric stuff, it's going to get hit and that's what we saw [Thursday]."
Matheny said Pat Neshek, who hasn't allowed a run in 20 consecutive appearances, is an eighth-inning option. For now, there is no certainty in who the team will use, going game by game as Martinez works toward consistency.
"We're trying to put guys in right positions and we go back to some of the good outings that we've seen Carlos have," Matheny said. "There's some things that he's going to have to sort through again to get back there."
• Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams was out of the starting lineup for the third straight day Friday as he battles tightness in his left calf. Adams pinch-hit Wednesday, but Matheny said he was unavailable Thursday when the Cardinals attempted a ninth-inning comeback.
• With the promotion of Grichuk come questions about when Cardinals top prospect Oscar Taveras will make his Major League debut. Taveras was hitting .325 with seven homers and 40 RBIs entering Friday.
"Obviously there's a lot of focus on Oscar, and rightfully so; he's having a terrific year as well," Matheny said. "We've got [Grichuk] here with a little more versatility with being able to play some center and also hitting with some power, and that's really what we're trying to boost."
Alex Halstedis an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.