The St. Louis Cardinals lineup challenge to balance offense, defense, the hot-hand, and getting players on track continues to be in play tonight as Harrison Bader gets the start in right field.
“He’s a good player,” said Mike Matheny. “Just going to continue to get everybody a chance to come in and compete. No question what this guy does defensively every single time he gets a chance. It doesn’t take in-depth research to see how special he’s been against lefties, so any time you give him a chance against a left-handed pitcher there’s plenty of reason to see how that could be advantageous.
In 34 at-bats against left-handers this season, Bader has 11 hits (.324). Fowler is hitting .091 (3-33) against southpaws.
“Even if it were not the case, what he’s doing defensively is enough to keep him getting chances on the field,” continued Matheny. “A lot like what we’ve talked about with Kolten. I’ve been so impressed with him this year defensively and whether it’s a full game or whether it’s right at the end. It makes a difference. Now we’ve got to put together some at-bats that can help contribute, especially on a team that–it seems to have been the theme more so than anything else this year, the hitting. Putting together enough offense. That’s the balance.”
Fowler entered June with a good stretch at the plate, batting .348 (8-23) over a six-game stretch but has followed that by going hitless in his last 12 at-bats. Overall, his average has been .200 or better for only two games in 2018 (April 13, 15th).
Meanwhile, Bader is batting .289 (26-90) with 5 home runs and 8 RBIs in 24 starts this season.
Speaking before yesterday’s game, President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak had empathy for Matheny.
“This is the tough part about managing,” said Mozeliak. “Because you’re trying to get people going, trying to give them opportunities…when someone’s playing well, how do you pull them out of the lineup? I think the manager’s in a tough spot when he’s trying to find a balance between the two. For all of us, I should say for all of you, who second-guess managerial moves you see the difficulty in that. It’s tough and I certainly can appreciate sort of the situation our manager finds himself in because he wants to get everybody going and he wants to get them in a good spot, but it’s hard to do when you have people with stand out performances.”
Asked if he had his own personal preference if it was time to turn the page and how a large contract could be the elephant in the room, Mozeliak dismissed that notion.
“You really have to boil it down to this is the big leagues and we’re here to win baseball games,” he said. “Big leagues is not a developmental league so at some point you have to go with who you have the most faith in at the moment or the hot hand and that’s what we’ve been trying to do.”
photo credit: Benny Sieu, Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
— Brian Stull (@StullySTL) June 12, 2018