ST. LOUIS -- Matt Carpenter, hitless in his last nine at-bats, was unplugged from the starting lineup on Tuesday as manager Mike Matheny sensed the third baseman was beginning to fight fatigue.
Rest has been rare for Carpenter, whose only other day off this season came on April 16. That didn't turn out to be much of a day off either, as he entered as a pinch-hitter and ended up playing another three innings. His 69 starts are tied with outfielder Matt Holliday for most on the team.
"Yesterday it kind of came to a head midgame, and I knew it was most likely going to be an opportunity to give him a day," Matheny said. "I talked to him last night and he fought me a little bit. Then I think he realized ... it just made for a good day."
The timing took Carpenter out of the lineup against Mets left-hander Jon Niese, against whom he is 4-for-7 in his career. But Carpenter is 1-for-14 on this homestand. The Cardinals have nevertheless managed to win each of those four games despite the limited production from the leadoff spot.
The move isn't just reactive, either, as the Cardinals would like to help Carpenter stay fresh in order to avoid the second-half slump he endured last summer after being pushed as an everyday player. He had a 1-for-31 stretch in late July to early August.
Carpenter wasn't the only regular absent from Tuesday's lineup. Second baseman Kolten Wong and first baseman Matt Adams also sat, though those were matchup-based decisions. Instead, Matheny created starting opportunities for the right-handed-hitting Mark Ellis and Peter Bourjos.
Handling third in place of Carpenter was Daniel Descalso, making just his 10th start of the season. Playing time has been scarce for Descalso, who has fallen to the back of the infield depth chart as the Cardinals have found production elsewhere. His versatility has also led Matheny to hold him on the bench as a possible late-game defensive substitution, which has, in turn, cost him possible pinch-hit spots in earlier innings.
"It's been difficult," Matheny said, speaking of trying to find opportunities for the infielder. "He deserves better. It's just been hard to [find opportunities]. Everybody around here has a great deal of respect for him and how he plays the game. Hopefully, we can keep him sharp by getting him a little more time."
Descalso leads the club with four hits in 14 at-bats as a pinch-hitter.
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.