Carpenter's work at first paying off for Cards

Carpenter's work at first paying off for Cards

ST. LOUIS -- Matt Carpenter's decision to learn the first-base position this offseason not only thrust him up the depth chart during spring, but it has also proven key in the Cardinals' ability to handle the recent absence of Lance Berkman.

Heading into camp, there was some concern about the Cardinals' depth at the position, at least during for the time the club would be without Allen Craig. With Craig unavailable to back up Berkman, St. Louis didn't have an obvious second option. Those concerns faded, though, as Carpenter proved during Grapefruit League play that he could handle the position defensively. His offensive production has only added to his value.

While the 26-year-old isn't expected to replace Berkman's production, he's certainly lessened the impact of the veteran's absence.

"Whatever my role is going to be, I'm willing to do that and every chance I get to help win a game," said Carpenter, who drove in a run with a second-inning single on Sunday. "We need Lance to get healthy. Until he does, hopefully I can get the job done. I have to focus on what I can do, which is have consistent positive at-bats and play good defense and just give my best effort when I'm in there."

Sunday marked Carpenter's fifth start at first base, a position he played only once in the Minors. While manager Mike Matheny noted that there are some footwork improvements that Carpenter can still make, his inexperience at the spot has not been highlighted thus far.

"He's such a conscientious player that he's going to pick it up," Matheny said. "And he's such a talented athlete who can make the adjustments. I don't think you're going to see anything but him get better the more time he spends out there."