ST. LOUIS -- On a day when manager Mike Matheny sat four of his regular starting position players, he also infused some experience back into the lineup with the returns of Lance Berkman and Carlos Beltran.
Beltran's absence from the starting lineup was brief, as he missed just two games due to a bone bruise on his left knee. For Berkman, however, the start was his first since Aug. 2. It also came as a surprise given how much Berkman had been hobbling even since coming off the disabled list over the weekend. Berkman has been bothered by soreness in both of his knees.
"It feels like I'm being held together with super glue and with tape," Berkman said. "But the reality is it's probably not that bad. Really, what it is now is more of a confidence issue and just having confidence in the joint. That's a real thing. It's not a pain thing. It's more that I'm a little tentative to push it because of what's happened in the past.
"Getting these looks and getting some reps in there is kind of what you have to do to get the feel back."
Matheny did not anticipate having the option to start Berkman this soon. Rather, the expectation was that Berkman would be limited to contributing off the bench. Berkman's availability, though, changed after a conversation he had with Matheny during Tuesday's game.
"He told me he's feeling pretty good," Matheny said of Berkman. "I talked to him about the opportunity today with some of these guys being out, and he said, 'Absolutely.' I really wasn't thinking that much about a start. I really just wanted to get him some at-bats pinch-hit-wise. He told me he's ready to do whatever."
Berkman is still not expected to get many starts down the stretch.
The presence of Berkman and Beltran in the lineup somewhat mitigated the absence of several other mainstays. Yadier Molina, Matt Holliday, David Freese and Allen Craig each received the day off, and Matheny's decision on that regard was two-fold.
For various reasons, all four appeared in need of a day off. Holliday and Molina are both dealing with minor injury issues, while Freese and Craig have already played more this season than either has before in the Majors.
And then there was the knuckleball factor.
"There's been thought in the game that a guy like that can really foul up something that you have going really good," Matheny said, hours before his club faced 17-win knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. "Sometimes it just messes with their approach because you have to have a completely different approach. We can get some of these young players who are just champing at the bit in there swinging off anybody."
All four of the regulars Matheny rested on Wednesday were available, if needed, off the bench.