"It's good to be back here, but it's a little weird," said Barden, who was drafted by and spent six seasons in the D-backs organization. "It was good to see the guys I started the season with, but I'm happy to be with this team."
The reason Barden is happy is he thinks he has a better opportunity to earn some playing time with St. Louis than he did with Arizona.
"They've got a lot of young guys in the infield that kind of jumped ahead of me this year, like Mark Reynolds and Emilio Bonifacio," said Barden, "and next year was going to be the same kind of logjam. I've been at Triple-A the last three seasons, and I was going to be stuck in the same situation. It was probably time for me to move on.
"I think I have a better chance to show what I can do here."
Entering this season, Barden was a career .300 hitter in the Minor Leagues in just under 600 games. This season, between his two organizations, he's hit .263 but says facing some adversity as a hitter for the first time in his professional career has "made him stronger mentally."
There is no doubt this has been a difficult year for the Cardinals as they seek to defend their World Series title. The off-the-field issues have been well documented, and players the likes of Chris Carpenter, Juan Encarnacion, Scott Rolen, Preston Wilson and Adam Kennedy are done for the season.
In addition, the Cards have had too many games to count where a player was on the active roster but unavailable to play for various reasons.
Add it all together and "the number [of missed games] is staggering," said manager Tony La Russa.
Through it all, the Cardinals entered Saturday night's game against Arizona just one game out of the division lead.
"It shows the character and strength of this club, and the leadership of the manager and the veteran players we have here to carry through everything that has happened," said general manager Walt Jocketty.
Late lineup move:
Catcher Yadier Molina was in La Russa's original starting lineup on Saturday night but was scratched just before game time due to lingering effects of a foul ball off of his face mask in Friday night's contest. Kelly Stinnett replaced him behind the plate.
Now batting ninth: La Russa elaborated further on why he has gone with batting the pitcher in the eighth spot for every game since Aug. 4.
"I like the fact we have a position player hitting ninth," said La Russa. "It's like a second leadoff batter, and I think it's good for our offense."
La Russa confirmed that Brad Thompson would get the nod for Sunday's finale, but he said that was "assuming we don't need him [on Saturday] night."
Although Thompson has made 13 starts this season, he hasn't had a Major League start since July 22, working in the bullpen since that time. However, he did go five innings in a start at Triple-A at the beginning of this month, so La Russa said Thompson was sufficiently "conditioned to go deeper into the game."
La Russa left open the possibility that he could shuffle his starting rotation a bit next week to give a couple of pitchers some extra rest. As of Saturday night, the regular rotation would have Mark Mulder working on Tuesday and Adam Wainwright going on Wednesday.
La Russa said that there was a possibility either Mulder or Wainwright or both could be pushed back to give them an extra day of rest, leaving the door open for another pitcher to start either Tuesday or Wednesday. Mike Maroth is considered a candidate for that start if there is some shuffling. La Russa is also mulling over potential starting options for later in the week as the team has a doubleheader on Saturday against the Cubs.
The Cardinals finish off their three-game set with the D-backs on Sunday afternoon at Chase Field. Thompson (6-5, 5.07 ERA) will take the mound against Arizona southpaw Doug Davis (13-11, 3.98). First pitch is scheduled for 3:40 p.m. CT.