ST. LOUIS -- Something as simple as feeling comfortable on the mound has been largely elusive for reliever Fernando Salas this season. Bothered by a kidney stone for the first two months of the season, Salas returned from a brief demotion in June hopeful that after passing that kidney stone, his struggles were behind him. Yet he closed out the month by allowing six earned runs in 2 2/3 innings.
That led the right-hander to the video room, where, along with pitching coach Derek Lilliquist and bullpen coach Dyar Miller, he picked up on something. Where Salas was standing on the pitching rubber last season -- when he posted a 2.28 ERA in 68 appearances -- and where he has positioned himself this season are different.
The move was inadvertent, and Salas corrected it by sliding himself farther left on the rubber on Tuesday. The immediate results were encouraging, as Salas did not allow a hit in two scoreless innings.
"Being on the right side, those pitches were more in the middle, because [I've] had more trouble on that side of the plate," Salas said through an interpreter. "By moving to the left side, [I'm] able to hit the corners a little bit better. [I] definitely feel better now, and [I'm] going to keep working on it."
Though the Cardinals need a much larger sample before determining whether this small tweak can pay large dividends, it's at least reason for some optimism. Salas, who entered Wednesday with a 5.60 ERA, has not been nearly as reliable as he was a year ago, and his inconsistencies have contributed to the bullpen's instability thus far.
"He needed a little bit of confidence," manager Mike Matheny said. "He needed a little bit of positive results. Just the swings off him looked like they were having trouble picking up. That's what he's always had. He's always had deception and location."