ST. LOUIS -- To gain proper perspective on the defensive showcase Daniel Descalso has put on -- particularly in recent weeks -- it's really not necessary to go much beyond Adam Wainwright's weekend assessment of the utility infielder.
"Daniel Descalso is amazing. He's a human highlight reel," Wainwright said. "It seems like he gets to balls that most guys don't, and he makes that diving play as good as I've seen ever."
Descalso's defense has shined recently, and the Cardinals couldn't have asked for it to come at a better time. Back stiffness and the need to ensure the ailment doesn't worsen have kept Rafael Furcal out of the Cardinals' lineup in six of the team's last eight games. In all of them, Descalso has started in Furcal's place.
And when he's not playing short, Descalso has recently been the second baseman du jour, with the consistent playing time a reward for the stability he's providing in the field.
"I always feel good about my defense," Descalso said. "That's one thing that has been consistent for me ever since I've been up here."
Indeed, Descalso has long been considered an above-average defender. He was even recognized as a finalist for the Rawlings Gold Glove Award at third base last season, despite only starting 61 games at the position.
But infield coach Jose Oquendo is among those who believe Descalso has been even better this year. The biggest improvement, Oquendo said, has been on the mental side. No longer does Descalso need to rely much on Oquendo for instruction on where to position himself. He's picking up tendencies on his own.
"He is more aware of how to play the hitters," Oquendo said. "He sees what [catcher] Yadier [Molina] is doing behind the plate and positions himself to have a better chance. He's doing great. When Furcal needs a day off, we have someone that fills in well enough that, defensively, we don't miss much."