PHOENIX -- As Brian Barden stood at the top of the visitor's dugout at Chase Field, teammate David Freese uttered one word as he passed by: memories. Barden answered with, "I'm trying to keep them in check." The Cardinals reserve infielder made his first start of the 2009 season at second base on Monday against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the team that drafted him and with whom he made his Major League debut in 2007.
Barden now has a new memory at Chase Field. He hit the game-winning home run in a 2-1 victory before 25,014 fans when he connected for an opposite-field shot off starter Doug Davis in the eight inning. "I got a beer shower," said the soaked Barden after the game. "It's a great day when that happens. I have no hard feelings against them and show those guys that maybe they missed out on something." Barden, who was selected in the sixth round of the 2002 Draft by the D-backs out of Oregon State, was claimed off waivers on Aug. 13, 2007 and made his Cardinals debut on Sept. 4 of that season "That was Hollywood-ish," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. After 15 games in 2007 with the Cardinals, Barden appeared in nine in 2008 and entered the season with a career average of .180 in 50 big league at-bats. Barden, 28, feels he is in the perfect situation because he knows La Russa is not one to stick solely with his every day players. "I'm going to play second, short and third, but as long as I am getting action, that's all that matters," said Barden, who has two hits this season -- both game-winners. "That's the good thing about Tony. He keeps you fresh and on your toes, and you never know when you are going to play so you have to be ready every time you come to the park. "When it comes down to September and August, a lot of teams lose their steam, and if you can get your players' legs under them, it's going to be better. He is Mr. Strategy, and he has a great idea of what he wants to do each and every game." La Russa said it was a coincidence that Barden's first start came against his former team. "You can't let the bench players rot early in the season," La Russa said. "We got a lefty [Davis] out there, and it was a good time for him to get in there." Barden and his wife, Ashley, reside in Tucson, Ariz., and his parents live in Phoenix, so he will have plenty of support during the series. "It's nice to have the support," he said, "but I am just focused on baseball and helping the team anyway I can." Barden said this is the first time in two years that he feels completely healthy after having hernia surgery in the offseason. It was diagnosed as abdominal strain by D-backs doctors in 2007, but it never healed, so it was reevaluated. "I couldn't run, didn't hit many home runs, and it changed the way I played the game," Barden said. "The ironic thing is it was performed by the Diamondbacks' doctor."
Jason P. Skoda is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.