No matter what you thought of Tony La Russa, one had to respect his ability to keep an entire roster sharp and ready to compete. There were no “Ripkens” on La Russa’s teams.
Manager Mike Matheny has done a terrific job of continuing that philosophy of starting players off the bench on a regular basis and getting the veterans and surgically-repaired players regular rest.
The baseball season is a grind, and games in 100-degree heat do not help matters.
The benefits are obvious, of course: yesterday’s starter is today’s pinch-hitter. Anywhere from one to three players play multiple positions in each contest, and getting the veterans out of blowouts (of which the Cards have had more than their fair share) will keep them fresh throughout the season.
While the Cardinals would be excited to see Jaime Garcia, Kyle McClellan and Lance Berkman back on the field, the club must do everything to keep their somewhat fragile stars, who have put them in this position to begin with, healthy as well.
Berkman is coming off minor knee surgery and seems ready to go after the break. Rafael Furcal is poised to have his best season in six years and is already just four games shy of his entire total last season. Carlos Beltran is on pace to surpass 600 at-bats for the first time in four seasons.
In addition, David Freese and Allen Craig are both on pace to obliterate their season-high number of plate appearances, and they are both as crucial to the Cardinals’ prospects of making the postseason as the veterans.