Wanting to get his starting center fielder up to speed after a hitless season-opening road trip, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny moved Peter Bourjos up to No. 2 in the order, a spot that has spurred struggling batters before.
And, in doing so, he offered a different rev to the lineup.
“A lot of it is just trying to get Peter going,” Matheny said. “We’ve got to get him moving. It hasn’t shown up statistically but he’s got a real nice swing going. You’re seeing things he worked on all through spring, just not getting results.”
Bourjos responded with a single in the first inning and a double in the seventh inning, his first two hits as a Cardinal. He scored each time he was on base in the Cardinals’ 5-3 victory at Busch Stadium against Cincinnati, and he showed fleeting hints at how his running ability could alter the Cardinals’ offense. In the seventh, his double found a hole created by the defense squeezing in to speed up their throws to first.
In previous games against lefties like the Reds’ Tony Cingrani, Matheny had started righthanded hitter Jhonny Peralta in the No. 2 spot. Bourjos offered another righty to put in that spot and could earn the nod by showing a stronger ability to get on base.
“I don’t know about ‘call home’ just yet” about batting second vs. lefties, Bourjos said. “More of a jump-start for me right now. You get some fastballs here with (Matt) Holliday hitting third, obviously. They’re not going to pitch around you.”
Bourjos entered Monday’s game without a hit in his first 13 at-bats. The number he pointed to wasn’t the zero in the hit column — he’s had a couple of base hits stolen by exceptional defensive plays — but the six strikeouts. The number of strikeouts meant he wasn’t putting the ball in play and giving his speed a chance.
Matheny said Bourjos could be a different “spark against a lefty.”
“For Peter to get going offensively is something we were looking for (Monday),” Matheny said. “Once you get him on base fun things can happen.”
Hours after he received the ceremonial first pitch of opening day, Matheny’s left hand was still smarting from the pop Chris Carpenter’s 90 mph fastball gave.
“Seriously not cool,” Matheny said. “It was gas. It was nowhere near what I was expecting. He threw a missile at me. The first three innings my fingers throbbed.”
The Cardinals invited Carpenter, who retired officially this past winter, to throw out the first pitch, and Matheny was called into duty to catch him. The two composed a battery for a 100-win team back in 2004. Carpenter suggested that Matheny stand up for the pitch, not settle into the catcher’s squat. A former Gold Glove Award-winner who has been known to warm up pitchers during regular-season games, insisted he would crouch.
Carpenter responded by whipping a fastball, low and on the edge of the plate.
“I’ve caught a lot of first pitches before, but never one with that kind of heat,” Matheny said. “I got one from the president (George W. Bush) and it was good. That was memorable. He threw a strike. But (Carpenter’s) was by far the one with the most behind it.”
ELLIS STARTS HITTING
When and where Mark Ellis will begin his return to the lineup with a rehab assignment hasn’t been determined yet, but how he gets ready for it started Monday. Ellis, who has been on the disabled list since opening day with tendinitis in his right knee, hit for the first time Monday since the DL move. He has been rehabbing in St. Louis for the past week, though he had not done any baseball activity or running.
Ellis said the discomfort in the knee has started to dissipate, and he added that a collection of fluid in the knee had relented.
He will not come off the DL on the first day he’s eligible, Friday.
“Not worried about taking its time and realizing I’ve just got to get better,” Ellis said. “Everything now is going in the right direction.”
The Cardinals returned to their clubhouse at Busch Stadium to find some new decorations hanging around the 8-year-old room. Team president Bill DeWitt III, with the encouragement of Matheny, had a flag from each of the team’s 11 World Series championships hung on the wall on the far side of the room, above the lockers. Wrapped around the top of two other walls are flags for each of the team’s 12 retired numbers. And at the head of the clubhouse, right above the lockers for several of the starting pitchers, is a quote from Cardinals great Stan Musial. It reads: “I love to play this game of baseball. I love putting on this uniform.”
Class AA shortstop Aledmys Diaz, the Cuban infielder the Cardinals signed in March, made his first start of the regular season Sunday. He went two for five with a double and two RBIs for the Springfield (Mo.) affiliate. … Former Cardinal Ryan Ludwick received raucous applause when he was introduced as the Reds’ starting left fielder Monday. Ludwick had two hits to give him 230 at Busch III, the sixth-most in the park’s history. … Before the start of Monday’s game the Reds optioned backup catcher Tucker Barnhart to Class AAA and activated Devin Mesoraco from the disabled list, where he started the year with a strained oblique.
Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.