ATLANTA -- Three hours before the Cardinals participated in batting practice and their daily set of defensive drills, Matt Carpenter took the field and opened his ears for extra instruction.
He heard from infield coach Jose Oquendo, assistant hitting coach David Bell and manager Mike Matheny, all three surrounding Carpenter on the dirt around third base to talk to him about timing and positioning. Displeased with his early-season defensive showing at third base, Carpenter saw no better solution than to put in extra work.
"I think that overall -- defense, offense, trying to get in sync with the way I know I can play and the way I want to feel," Carpenter said. "But it's a long season, and that's going to happen. You just have to find a way to minimize it when things aren't going your way. And when you do feel good, you try to ride that out as long as you can."
"I think he hasn't really found a comfortable rhythm over there yet," added Matheny. "It's amazing, every single thing about this game is timing. He doesn't feel comfortable timing-wise -- getting set up, getting prepared when the ball is crossing the plate of what position he wants to be in. True to form, he's out working."
Matheny, speaking during batting practice, stopped and pointed to the field.
"He's out there working right now. Look at him," Matheny added. "He's going to get there."
Carpenter transitioned back to third base this season, though the move was expected to be easier than the one he made a year ago when he was a newbie at second. With an offseason of incessant work, Carpenter made himself no worse than an average defender at second. That's why expectations were high for what Carpenter could offer over at third base, his natural position.
Instead, the results have been mixed. Carpenter has committed six errors -- he had a seventh one erased on Tuesday with a late scoring change -- and his ultimate-zone rating of -3.1 is third lowest among the 21 qualifying third basemen.
"He worked his butt off last year to do what he did at second," Matheny said. "And it's a whole different timing. The timing that you have there doesn't necessarily prepare you for the speed and reaction you need here at third. Having success over there [at second base] at this level should instantly translate into having more confidence that you should be successful at a position that you've spent more time at. But it doesn't automatically happen."
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.