SAN FRANCISCO -- With an off-day looming Monday and a lengthy road trip in the rearview mirror, the Cardinals rested three infield regulars Sunday -- two of them for the first time all year. Albert Pujols, Troy Glaus and Cesar Izturis all sat against Giants right-hander Tim Lincecum, replaced by Chris Duncan, Rico Washington and Aaron Miles.
Manager Tony La Russa intends to give Pujols a few more days off than usual this season, in order to help maintain Pujols' injured right elbow. But with Pujols feeling good and playing extremely well, it's been tough to sit the slugger. Pujols is off to a blazing start, with a .390 batting average, .528 on-base percentage and .707 slugging percentage.
"You try to do it when it makes sense, rather than when you have to do it because he's sore and beat up," La Russa said. "He's played hard and he's played every game in a row, 13 games in a row."
One element in La Russa's decision was Lincecum, who has a huge left-right split thus far this season. In two starts this year, Lincecum has allowed a .421/.522/.526 (average/on-base/slugging) line against left-handed batters, as opposed to .158/.227/.158 versus right-handers. It's an extremely small sample size, but La Russa is happy to play any potential edge.
"He's good enough to where you look for anything you can get," the manager said.
Also factoring in was the timing. Sunday is the last game of a seven-game road trip. By getting some part-time players in the lineup, La Russa hopes and expects to get an injection of energy. For Washington, it was his first Major League start.
La Russa also prefers, when giving regulars a break, to do so before an off-day, providing the starter two full days to rest.
"There are a lot of things that came together for giving those guys a day off and making it today," he said.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.