La Russa: Performance dictates playing time

La Russa: Performance dictates playing time

NEW YORK -- The Cardinals are approaching the part of the season where one of manager Tony La Russa's mantras kicks in. La Russa prefers to spend the season's first four months making sure that all of his players get plenty of work and stay in the mix, while also allowing his regulars all the opportunities he can give them to work through struggles.

Starting right about this time, however, La Russa leans more than ever on a simple philosophy: "Whoever plays the best, plays the most." That's beginning to take hold in center field, where Jon Jay is getting more starts and the slumping Colby Rasmus is getting fewer. Rasmus has started three of the Cardinals' six games since the All-Star break, while Jay made his fourth start since the break on Thursday -- one of those in right field.

"It's a good problem to have," La Russa said. "I feel confident in both guys' play. I think Jon has been playing consistently well. ... [Rasmus] is putting a lot of effort into the games. At this point, you start getting into the second half of the season, it comes down to performance and productivity. I'm certainly not going to make Colby a bench player, because if he gets it going, he can be a game-winner by himself. I'll keep both guys active, see what happens."

One tough aspect of the mix is that Rasmus has been more effective against left-handed pitchers than against righties this year -- yet Jay has been better against lefties than Rasmus has been. So with the Mets' Jon Niese on the mound Thursday, Jay got the start.

"This is a tough lefty," La Russa said. "I don't think I'm doing Colby a favor by running him out there."