Holliday happy to cap Cards career with big moments

In first at-bat back from thumb injury, outfielder launches pinch-hit homer

Holliday happy to cap Cards career with big moments

ST. LOUIS -- The standing ovation, the improbable home run, the reception from his teammates, it all brought veteran outfielder Matt Holliday to tears on Friday. A day later, he described it all as "an out-of-body experience" and a storybook end to his seven-plus seasons in St. Louis.

"I don't even remember rounding the bases," Holliday added. "It felt like something that God gave me, a moment that was surreal."

As it turned out, however, it wasn't exactly the end. Though Holliday said Saturday morning that he would "prefer that to be his last at-bat," manager Mike Matheny summoned him in a critical spot later that afternoon. And Holliday delivered again, poking an RBI single to right field in the sixth inning. The Cardinals scored three in the frame to tie the game.

Holliday received another standing ovation as he left for a pinch-runner, as fans realize their opportunities to recognize the outfielder are winding down. The Cards have already informed Holliday that they do not plan to exercise his $17 million club option.

It will not, however, put a bow tie on his career. The 13-year veteran said on Saturday that he intends to play somewhere next season.

"I'm going to keep playing, for sure," Holliday said. "I have a lot of good baseball left in me. It's a huge unknown right now as far as what's going to happen, but I'm excited. Physically, I felt great until, obviously, the thumb injury. So, yeah, I feel like I'm in a good spot with the rest of my career."

Holliday fractures thumb on HBP

The Cardinals have not completely ruled out the possibility of negotiating a new deal with Holliday, though neither party expects that to happen.

"Understanding where I am and where the team is, it just feels like maybe it's time for a different situation for them and for me," Holliday said. "It's not that I don't want to come back. But I think they're looking at different options."

Broadcast on Holliday's future

That reality is something Holliday began to face here recently, particularly once it became evident that his surgically repaired right thumb was not going to fully heal before the end of the season. When manager Mike Matheny conveyed his intention to get Holliday in a game over these final days to allow for a proper sendoff, Holliday was appreciative, but also hesitant.

The last thing he wanted to do was force a poignant moment while taking away from the team's chances at earning a National League Wild Card berth. As it was, he got both. His first career pinch-hit home run helped the Cardinals to a 7-0 win on Friday.

"It's one of those things where you try to take a moment to take it in and realize you're about to be in a competition," Holliday said. "You definitely don't want to get embarrassed in a situation like that. I tried to quickly turn my attention to something I've done thousands of times, which is compete in an at-bat. I felt like I was able to kind of do that. But I'm not sure how it happened."

Holliday's thumb was sore the next day, though that was to be expected. The inflammation likely won't calm down until he rests it for several weeks this offseason. Whether he could get healthy enough to contribute in the postseason, if the Cardinals get there, is a conversation Holliday has not yet had with the organization.

But even though his thumb did not heal as quickly as he hoped, Holliday emphasized he would still undergo surgery and put in the rehab hours if he had to do it over again.

"I'm a baseball player. I want to play baseball," Holliday said. "These are my brothers. If I can get back to help the team and do anything I can, I always want to do it. That was never a question. It didn't take this moment to make it worth it, but I am grateful for it."

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.