Early on Thursday morning, the Cardinals placed center fielder Jon Jay on the 15-day disabled list due to a bout with wrist tendinitis. While first baseman Xavier Scruggs, whom recently began some matinee appearances as a corner outfielder as well, was promoted to take his place on the roster, the clear cut Cardinal who stands to benefit the most is Peter Bourjos. With a path clear to an uncontested everyday opportunity, it is the best chance that the speedy glovesmith will likely have to show that what he can completely offer on a daily basis.
Yet on the young season, Bourjos has not been short on opportunities to get into Mike Matheny’s lineup in one fashion or another. He has been used in a variety of capacities, most notably as a pinch runner –where he is leading the team in stolen bases with four in seven chances – as well as defensively, where he has played to his usual exceptional defensive capabilities as well.
However, quietly he has also strung together a surprising start at the plate as well, hitting .311 over his first 45 at-bats, and has filled in well since Jay was pulled from everyday activity over the past weekend, hitting .320 over his past 10 games, six of which have seen him in the starting lineup.
It is vital that Bourjos maintains the consistency that plagued him last year as he battled an increasingly debilitating hip injury, one which led him to off-season surgery and a rehab stint that bled into the early weeks of spring training. Center field is currently the most maligned position on the club. There is uncertainty around Jay’s hand and wrist, which he has struggled to maintain strength within to the extent that he could not grip a bat over the past few games, and when he will be able to make a long-term return. Matheny states that “rest” may be the best policy currently, and Jay will be unavailable for at least until May 24th, as his DL stint was retroactive to last Saturday.
Outside of Jay’s as well as the absence of both Randal Grichuk and Tommy Pham still looms large as well for the organization’s Major League-ready depth in center. Grichuk continues to rehab a balky lower back issue, and is yet to receive a rehab assignment. Pham also is a ways off, as he is yet to turn from the thigh injury that ended his strong Spring Training showing early.
Between the injured trio of outfield options, Bourjos stands alone as the sole Cardinal capable of manning the middle of the outfield on the roster currently. While Jason Heyward could make the shift over to center if needed, the path is clear for Bourjos to make a stake for the role that has eluded him since he arrived in St. Louis a year ago. An inconsistent hitter throughout his career, him staying at his current level of offensive production should not be expected. But if he can provide a versatile presence capable of producing at either the top or bottom of the lineup, as well as find ways on base to insert his dynamic speed element into the run creating picture more often, there is nothing but benefits to Bourjos having a more frequent presence in the lineup.
Watch Bourjos get his chance with the team by attending Busch Stadium. Fans outside the area can use Hipmunk.com for flights to St. Louis and reserve St. Louis hotels to catch the team for multiple games in a series and set up a baseball destination vacation.
For the long haul, having the options of Bourjos, joined by Jay and Grichuk in some capacity is essential for the team to continue to meet (and even exceed) its potential. But for now, the light is on Bourjos to carry the weight of the team’s load at one of its most vital, as well as undermanned, positions.