JUPITER, Fla. -- Jhonny Peralta got his Cardinals debut out of the way on Saturday, going 0-for-2 in three innings as the cleanup hitter. Now speculation turns to where he'll fit in the batting order once the games actually count.
Manager Mike Matheny admits to having written several potential lineups, but he has chosen not to settle on one just yet. The batting orders he is crafting in these early spring games don't provide much insight into what he could be thinking in the long term, either, because of the unique variables in play now.
In using Carlos Beltran as his No. 2 hitter regularly last season, Matheny displayed his preference for filling that spot with a run-producing bat. Peralta would seem to fit that mold in Beltran's absence, even though the new shortstop has little experience hitting in the top third of the order.
"I know that has been a hot topic, really, all winter, and everybody wants to get to the end of it," Matheny said. "I think we do ourselves a favor by just continuing to watch how this unfolds and how guys take their at-bats, realizing that the thing that means the most to us; we need those first two guys to get on base. Now the second guy, obviously, may have some more opportunities to drive in runs, so that's a criteria. But it is guys who are grinding out those at-bats to get on base for three-four-five [hitters]. That's going to be what it comes down to."
The Cardinals did maximize production out of the two-hole last season, leading the National League in average (.304), home runs (24) and RBIs (95) from that spot. The club's on-base percentage from the position was .350, second highest in the league.
The Cardinals hit nine players second last season; Beltran, Jon Jay, Matt Carpenter and Yadier Molina all had at least a dozen starts there.
"If we go into Spring Training saying, 'This is our guy to bat second,' we're not open to see what could possibly be best for our club. And I don't think that's the right way to go about it," Matheny said. "We're going to keep our eyes open, just give everybody the opportunity to go out and show what they can do, then trust that we're going to try and do what's right as far as how they go in their order."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.