8/9/2014 9:20 P.M. ET
Carpenter pacing himself to keep fresh for stretch run
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
BALTIMORE -- It was on this date a year ago that Matt Carpenter was wrapping up a 9-for-64 lull that represented his worst stretch of an otherwise exceptional season. He hinted at the time and admitted afterward that fatigue contributed to the brief, but sharp decline in production.
Carpenter did rebound to hit .355/.432/.536 over the final seven weeks of the 2013 season, but this year he vowed to better pace himself so that he could avoid even a temporary production dip.
"I've been tailoring my work around how long the season is, and I think that was the biggest thing I learned from last year," Carpenter said on Saturday. "Having gone through it once, I didn't want to hit that point where I felt like I was wearing down. That happened last year. I want to be as strong at the end of the year as I was to start."
That doesn't translate to Carpenter taking fewer swings or giving up his distinction as being the earliest player to the ballpark on most days. But he is cautious about not overworking himself, and Carpenter has been aided by the fact that he didn't have to pour all those additional hours into learning a new position again over the offseason and during Spring Training.
The rest he got then has translated into freshness now.
"I feel way better than I did at this point last year," Carpenter said. "Obviously, we'll find out if I'm able to get on a tear here and it pays off. But physically, I feel good."
Carpenter, who has started 113 of the team's 115 games, including each of the last 43, has nevertheless gotten off to a slow start this month. In seven August games, Carpenter is 5-for-22. However, he has struck out just once, and his on-base percentage has hardly suffered. The third baseman continues to be the team's best at extending at-bats and drawing walks.
His 63 walks entering Saturday ranked fourth most in the National League. He also remains among the league leaders in OBP (.379) and runs scored (71).
Descalso takes advantage of rare start vs. O's
BALTIMORE -- Though it would finish as a footnote in Saturday's 10-3 loss to the Orioles, Daniel Descalso, making his first start since July 6, reached base four times and tallied three hits.
Manager Mike Matheny has twice recently described Descalso's role as "unfair," noting that the Cardinals' expectation that the he can stay sharp amid sporadic playing time is an unrealistic task. Descalso has grown used to being an infield nomad of sorts, never entering the season as an everyday player, but often filling in at various positions when needed.
The reduction in playing time this season, though, has been sharp.
"It's been tough," Descalso said. "I've just been trying to stay positive and keep working to give myself a chance when I do get opportunities. I feel like I've done an OK job pinch-hitting. The starts have been few and far between, but it's nice to go out there and get a few hits with the chance to play today."
Even as a part-time player over the last three seasons, Descalso accrued at least 326 at-bats by the end of each year. He won't hit that figure this year, as Saturday's three pushed his season total to 101.
The Cardinals' commitment to Jhonny Peralta and Matt Carpenter as starters on the left side of the infield, and the additions of Kolten Wong and Mark Ellis at second base, has squeezed Descalso out of an opportunity.
Matheny has encouraged Descalso, who is batting .198 with a .257 on-base percentage, to evaluate his performance by quality of at-bats, not results. For Descalso, though, that's not easily put into practice.
"Numbers matter in this game," he said. "That's what we're all judged on. You want to go out there and put up numbers. Right now, I'm trying to get in a good frame of mind up there at the plate and in the field, and just go out and compete. I think that's all I can do right now.
"Obviously, it hasn't been what I expected of myself. But at the same time, I have to realize that the opportunities haven't really been there. I just have to make the most of them and try to stay positive and keep working hard, and when I do get a chance, go up there and have a good at-bat."
Masterson open to receiving feedback on mechanics
BALTIMORE -- Hesitant to shower Justin Masterson with too many new ideas and philosophies immediately upon his joining a new club, the Cardinals, after watching him pitch twice, are now positioned to increase the feedback and offer fresh suggestions that they hope will help the right-hander turn around his season.
"It's not like he walked in and we said nothing, but we first wanted to hear where he's been," manager Mike Matheny said of Masterson, who was acquired in a July 30 trade with Cleveland. "I think the greatest thing we can do is first listen to what this guy's saying and catch up to what Cleveland had been doing and trying to get him to do, so we can understand why he's doing what he's doing.
"We've been in that mode of just gathering information because there is nothing worse for a guy than for us to come in and say, 'OK, scrap all that stuff you've been working on.' He may have been going in the right direction, but still in the process. So tell us where you are. We've been listening to that."
Masterson's first start for the Cardinals was better than his second, which lasted only two innings on Friday. He had particular trouble with the feel of his sinker, a pitch integral to Masterson's success. Last season, he rode it to a 14-win, All-Star season.
This year, he has battled release point, mechanics, a compromised right knee and velocity drop. His ERA is more than two runs higher than it was a year ago. He has allowed five or more runs in 11 of 21 starts.
"Right now, he's trying to get it in the right place, which doesn't allow him to let it eat," Matheny said. "Once he gets a good feel with where he is mechanically, I think that allows him to ramp up and use his lower half a little bit better."
Matheny also noted that Masterson, instead of waiting for feedback from a new set of coaches, has also been quick to seek it out. After coming out of Friday's game, Masterson sought out Adam Wainwright to talk mechanics.
"It wasn't exactly what I wanted it to be," Masterson said of Friday's outing. "We don't feel that far off either. Last outing, I felt really good about getting through pitches. This one didn't feel as crisp. But I think being able to dissect both of them as we go should lead to a better next outing."
Masterson's next start is scheduled for Wednesday in Miami. He'll be able to begin incorporating any suggested mechanical adjustments on Sunday, when he throws his between-starts bullpen.
• According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Friday marked the first time in franchise history that three Cardinals pitchers allowed multiple homers in the same game. Justin Masterson, Nick Greenwood and Sam Freeman were each tagged with two homers in the 12-2 loss.
• After giving Jhonny Peralta the final three innings off in Friday's loss, manager Mike Matheny used his shortstop as the team's designated hitter on Saturday. Peralta had started each of the team's last 25 games at short. In 21 career games as a DH, Peralta has a .240/.286/.320 slash line with nine RBIs.
• Outfielder Randal Grichuk extended his hitting streak to a season-high eight games in Triple-A Memphis' loss on Friday. Lefty starter Marco Gonzales allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits, walked one and struck out five over seven innings in a no-decision.
• Double-A Springfield (Mo.) banged out a season-high 20 hits in a 10-6 win over Midland (Texas) on Friday. Seven players in the starting lineup finished with multi-hit games, including Cody Stanley, who paced the offense with a four-hit night. Breyvic Valera and Rafael Ortega each had three-hit games.
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.