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La Russa juggles Cards' options in right field

La Russa juggles Cards' options in right field

ST. LOUIS -- With Ryan Ludwick predicted to miss at least the rest of the eight-game homestand, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa faces a question he has trended toward answering one way in his managing career: Play the precocious rookies or turn to a veteran for help?

La Russa has the option to platoon left-hander Jon Jay and right-hander Allen Craig for Ludwick's right-field spot, or he can plug in veteran Randy Winn for several games while Ludwick recovers from a calf strain. Jay has been on fire since being recalled from Triple-A Memphis in early July, hitting .519 and slugging .889 in nine games this month. Craig was on a similar tear in Memphis, hitting .308 with a .520 slugging percentage while driving in 65 runs in 67 games.

Winn has hit .246 with a .333 slugging in 27 games since being signed by the Cardinals in early June.

For at least one day, La Russa turned to the veteran outfielder, inserting Winn in the five-hole against Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley on Friday.

Although La Russa has often relied on veterans during these situations throughout his career, he cautioned reading too much into one game of Winn.

"I had started out the series thinking that Jay would play the three [games]," La Russa said of right-handed starters.

"But if you can, you have to give a [bench guy] a chance to play when they are going against someone they have past history. Randy has been successful. If he is going to play a game on this homestand, this is the one to give it to him."

In 31 previous plate appearances against Billingsley, Winn hit .440 with a .517 on-base percentage. He delivered immediately on Friday, lacing a two-run triple in the first inning.

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