MILWAUKEE -- For the first time since June 24, Matt Carpenter walked into the clubhouse on Tuesday and saw his name on the Cardinals' lineup card for a second day in a row Carpenter, who has been a jack-of-all-trades for St. Louis this season, said he was "fired up" about starting on consecutive days. Early in the season, that wouldn't have been much of a surprise, as he started 24 of the first 39 games he appeared in before missing a month with a strained oblique. Most of those starts came because of injuries, though, and once the Cardinals gradually worked their way back to full strength, Carpenter's starts dwindled. And with Lance Berkman slowly makes his way back, Carpenter likely will see himself in more pinch-hit situations instead of starts.
Although he'd like to be in the lineup every day, Carpenter said coming off the bench more often than not has not been much of an adjustment. "Going into the season, I knew this was going to be my role, so I kind of had that mindset for that," Carpenter said, before heading out to right field. "Now it's kind of back to that role, and I'm just -- you never want to expect being a guy that's not in the lineup every day. But at the same time, if that's your role, you want to embrace it and do it to the best of your ability." In 17 pinch-hit appearances this year, Carpenter is 3-for-14 (.214) with one walk. All three of those hits were doubles, and he's managed to drive in six runs and score twice in those appearances. Overall, Carpenter was batting .285 with 21 RBIs and three home runs entering Tuesday. The 26-year-old's most valuable asset might be his versatility, though, as he's played first base, second base, third base and each corner outfield position this season. Carpenter said he wouldn't be with the Cardinals without that versatility, and manager Mike Matheny said it was put on display in St. Louis' 3-2 win over Milwaukee on Monday. "You see him being able to shift over from the outfield over to third base and handle the last out of the game on a hard hit ball, and he handled it well," Matheny said. "We've bounced him around a few different positions, and he's been able to not just play them, but do a nice job."
Carpenter proved his versatility anew on Tuesday night, starting in right field but moving to left in the second inning after Matt Holliday got hit on the thigh with a pitch and left the game.Matheny said players such as Carpenter and Tyler Greene, who made his first start since before the All-Star break on Tuesday, should want to play every day, but he also expects them to help the team, no matter the capacity. And for Carpenter, who said spending time as a starter made him feel like he "belongs," he knows as long as he continues to execute, more opportunities will open up for him. "The way I go about it, I just come to the ballpark every day expecting to be in the lineup," Carpenter said. "And if I'm not, then I'm going to be the best pinch-hitter I can be or being the best whatever the role might be that day; it changes all the time."