Matheny searching for answers to offensive funk

Matheny searching for answers to offensive funk

ST. LOUIS -- Baffled by the Cardinals' sluggish offensive stretch, manager Mike Matheny has attempted to inject some life into his lineup through any means available without a change in personnel.

He's utilized 21 different batting orders in 26 games and has shuffled players in and out looking to maximize matchups and hot streaks. On Saturday, he urged his players to take a mental respite by giving them a late report time and cancelling batting practice. The Cardinals responded by scoring just once.

It was the opposite approach on Sunday, when players were all at Busch Stadium no less than five hours before first pitch and did take the field for extra morning hitting. Coaches are prioritizing individual adjustments with individual players, yet also preaching the same collective message of an aggressive-under-control approach.

Matheny has even infused a bit of self-deprecating humor.

"I had a career of this, so I can sympathize very much so with all of them," said the third-year manager, a career .239 hitter. "Mine was actually the opposite -- I used to start really good and fool everybody for a while. Then the real guy came back. That's what I talk to these guys about. The real guy is going to come back."

That remains the foundation of the Cardinals' patience. Knowing that this is a lineup with several proven Major League hitters has assuaged early panic -- the clubhouse remains a mostly relaxed environment -- and has also kept the organization from reacting by making roster changes.

Patience will, however, wear thin if the offense remains missing for much longer. The Cardinals have gone the last 10 games without a home run and the last seven without scoring more than three runs.

The one thing Matheny, ever the optimist, has not changed through the struggles is his belief in the power of positive reinforcement. He continues to search out silver linings.

"I think sometimes if they buy into some of the talk around here, they'd think we're 0-40 right now," Matheny said. "We're able to scratch out some wins against some pretty good pitching and against some pretty good teams, and that's without offense. Are we anywhere close to where we should be? The answer on a consistent basis is, no. But we are finding a way. We're finding to win, not as many as we'd like, but we also can't sit there and fall into the trap of thinking that we're doing worse than we actually are."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for 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.