ST. LOUIS -- While the high concentration of off days in the three weeks after the All-Star break afforded the Cardinals built-in rest for their regulars and allowed the club to manipulate its rotation, it has not been a benefit to all.
The scheduled off days (eight in a 22-day span) have left little need for manager Mike Matheny to manipulate rest for his starting position players. But with a consistent lineup has come a shortage of at-bats for the players on the bench. That has been especially the case for Daniel Descalso and Mark Ellis.
Descalso hasn't started a game in more than a month, while Ellis has started just twice since July 5. Over the past 12 days, Ellis has taken three at-bats. Descalso has had more pinch-hit opportunities, though the 11 at-bats he's accrued in the past 31 days haven't given him much chance for traction.
"It's not fair to them once we get them in there and expect them to do [something], because they're not getting the chances," Matheny said. "But that's where we are right now. I feel like we're in a dogfight in this stretch, even though we're just in the beginning of August. They have the hand stacked against them to go in there and try to face the closer, try to face the setup guy in a big situation when they're pinch-hitting for the pitcher. It's a lot to ask."
The Cardinals have a chance to get an extra position player involved during their upcoming three-game series in Baltimore, though Matheny has suggested he will use the designated hitter spot in at least one of the games for Matt Holliday. That would not open up a spot for either of these two utility infielders.
While neither Descalso, nor Ellis, is expected to get more than occasional spot starts the rest of the way, the Cardinals nevertheless need their bats off the bench. The Cardinals would like to see improved production from their reserves, as the bench has produced a .220/.307/288 slash line this year. They are the only National League team without a pinch-hit home run.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. Alex Halsted is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.