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Matheny going with hot bats in Cards' lineup

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CHICAGO -- A hot topic surrounding the Cardinals on the young season has been their relatively cool bats. A nine-run output Wednesday in Milwaukee and a five-run game against the Cubs on Friday has somewhat brightened the offensive outlook, and previously struggling veterans Allen Craig and Jhonny Peralta have broken out of their season-long slumps with hot streaks the past week.

Some veterans still have yet to turn it around. Peter Bourjos is mired in a 1-for-19 slump and hasn't been in the starting lineup the past six games, including Saturday. Second baseman Mark Ellis started the season on the disabled list and is 4-for-33 (.121) with no extra-base hits since making his 2014 debut on April 15.

As a result, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny has been riding a hot Jon Jay in center field while Bourjos sits, and the recently recalled Greg Garcia made his second start Saturday in place of Ellis.

"It's difficult for Ellis, it's difficult for [Daniel] Descalso moving to the outfield, it's difficult for Peter Bourjos -- I mean all these guys," Matheny said. "They want to play and they show up here -- and rightfully so -- frustrated that they're not in there. That's part of being a competitor. They don't want to show up here and not be able to put their piece in.

"So the message that we continue to give them is just, 'Just keep pushing. We need each of you guys to be at the top of your game in order for us to be as good as we can be, and you're going to get your opportunity, so just keep working.'"

The Cardinals have been hovering around .500 for the better part of the young season, forcing Matheny to play matchups and the hot hands. He also wants his young players to get consistent playing time after they're called up from the Minors, but cautioned that in the long run his veterans will do the heavy lifting this season.

"I want to go with the guys that we think right now, right this minute, this at-bat, are going to give us the best chance," Matheny said. "And in the longer term, we see that absolutely being a chance for Peter Bourjos, and he has to get opportunities and that's our responsibility to try to get those for him.

"We bring these guys up when they're feeling good and they've got a nice feel at the plate," Matheny continued. "You really want to give them a chance and right now with Mark still trying to find his stride and us offensively still trying to find ours -- we'll throw somebody in there who's had a nice feel at the plate, maybe he can spark something for us."

Joe Popely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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