PostCards: Mike Matheny talks before 2014 NLDS Game 3


St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny addressed the media prior to the start of Game 3 of the 2014 National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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Q. Talk about Shelby tomorrow and what you’re looking to see from him.

MIKE MATHENY: Much like John Lackey today, just come out and pitch the kind of game they’ve been pitching for us. Shelby has had a strong season, probably improved as much as anybody this year and made some huge strides in his game that are going to help him down the road.

It will be fun to watch him. He was anxious to get an opportunity last year and it didn’t happen. Now he’s going to get his chance and looking forward to watching him shine.

Q. Kind of a follow‑up to that, can you talk about how he’s grown as a pitcher this year, and what you see him doing differently this October?

MIKE MATHENY: I think you take a highly talented pitcher with a great arm who kind of rolls through the Minor League system, really, a one‑dimensional pitcher, with a fastball that is just deceiving, and was able to ride it through the Minor Leagues. And also when he first got here, throwing a lot of high fastballs that were difficult to pick up and guys struggled with.

But this league makes adjustments pretty quick. And he was very smart to listen and watch Adam Wainwright, who continues to change his repertoire, just to give him a different look. And Shelby is now more of a pitcher and not a thrower. He’s using his off‑speed pitches and tough counts. He’s got a curveball he never had before. He’s putting movement on his fastball he’s never had before. He’s learning to be more efficient by being in the bottom of the zone. Cutting the ball at times.

He’s just got more weapons, which keeps them off‑balance. And that’s the essence of pitching.

Q. You’ve got an extra left‑hander with Kolten in the lineup today than you did against Kershaw. Can you share why you made that decision?

MIKE MATHENY: Well, there’s also some splits that will support that. But besides that, like the at‑bats that Kolten is taking. And we like him in the lineup and don’t necessarily rule him out every time there’s a lefty on the mound. He’s had some success against left‑handed pitching.

It usually comes down to what does it look like right now and what are the matchups, in our mind, how do they play. There are different styles of left‑handed pitchers. Some are a little more conducive to certain lefty swings. So giving him a shot to get in there and do something special today.

Q. How did you see Marco kind of evolve and improve from the first time he was up here until he came back up the second time? Has his role in your bullpen even changed with what you’ve seen of him in the last two or so weeks?

MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, I’d say he’s definitely improved. We gave him some things to work on. We sent him down ‑‑ his first start we put him right in the hot seat with pitching against his hometown team in Colorado, pitching in Colorado. Those are all tough assignments for your first start. And we were right in the middle of it and he answered the Bell. Did a real nice job, gave us a chance.

When we did have to send him back, a lot like what we talked about with Shelby, is trying to figure out what our team is going to do with what they’ve seen so far. And he needed to add a couple of weapons to his arsenal and put a little movement on the ball the other way, sink it on the first base side and be able to cut it on the third base side, and take advantage of the great changeup he has, trust his curveball a little bit more. All those things he’s able to do.

He’s a pitch maker. He knows how to pitch. We’ve thrown him into some tough situations and he responds very well. So stuff and makeup and just kind of a toughness for a young pitcher are all there. There’s no reason why we can’t throw him into big situations.

Q. In light of what happened last year with Shelby in the postseason and now pitching, can you relate your conversation with him when you told him that he was getting the start in the series, and what do you remember about his reaction?

MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, I don’t think it was anything celebratory. I think he planned that we were going to be throwing him at some point. He worked himself into a situation where he was one of our top guys at the end. We were figuring out how to get him on the mound as good as he was throwing the ball.

I don’t think it was any surprise. He figured he was going to get a start, just didn’t know which one. It really wasn’t a big dramatic unveiling that he was going to be Game4 starter. But he was excited. He’s always ready.

Last year when he didn’t get a chance to start after winning 15 games, he took it like a pro. I know he wasn’t happy about it, I know he wanted to be out there and start, just like Michael Wacha wants to this year. There’s only so many opportunities, and we just have to go with the guys that have been throwing the ball best, and Shelby has been one of them.

Q. When you brought in Johnny Peralta last year, did he exceed your expectations, particularly defensively?

MIKE MATHENY: I’d say defensively and offensively. We’ve seen the numbers and there’s been ‑‑ he had had a great season last year, average‑wise, showed a lot of power. But the consistency of how he’s been a consistent threat for us all season long, and somebody that we like seeing come up in those big situations.

Defensively I’d say a great surprise for us. And he just continued to improve all through spring. And once the season started he really hit the ground running and making plays and making them look easy. But just a very consistent defender for us and to me as good as anybody out there. What a great pickup for us.

Q. This series or otherwise, when you think about starting a starting pitcher on three days rest, what are some of the considerations that you weigh, pro or con, in this situation or any situation, really?

MIKE MATHENY: I think the things we have to look at are how they’re feeling, what the previous start looked like. Realizing that most of them probably hadn’t thrown on three days rest through the season. There’s no real previous information to go off of. It’s how they’ve responded.

And a lot of times we put a lot of faith in our medical staff to go in and do some strength test to see ‑‑ they have their hands on them every time they come off the mound and they know what they look like two days after their start. They know what they look like the day after. And if there’s any sort of weaknesses there, that would be kind of a precursor for bad things to come, either health‑wise or performance‑wise. I’m sure that’s when we would back off.

Most of it is going to have a little bit of knowledge of who they are and what they’ve done in the past and what situation we’re in. You put all of that together and see if it’s the right decision.

Q. You and Dan Haren were teammates one season here. What are your memories of him, and if it’s kind of weird to be seeing him out on the mound tomorrow, managing against him?

MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, and really enjoyed catching Danny right when he came up and watching his debut and being able to be a part of that. And understanding that at the time we knew he was going to be a very good pitcher with that real heavy sink that we talk about.

He’s fearless, one of those young kids not too long out of college, but had a disposition and a great demeanor on the mound. And he did exactly what a lot of us thought he’d do. He’s had a real nice stretch here of consistent pitching. He’s learning how to adapt. But always had a real nice sinker and a tough split. Never fun to catch that split necessarily, having to block it all the time. But had a real nice idea of what he needed to do and has made good adjustments through his career.

Q. All season the spot in the lineup you toyed with most was No. 2 in the lineup. As you get to October I wonder what traits you see in Grichuk that has put him there most often, and against lefties, and if you think he has a bit of a nontraditional take for that spot?

MIKE MATHENY: I think that’s a legitimate statement. You typically think of that No. 2 guy as being an on‑base guy and somebody that’s going to move guys around. Really what happened was we got into a spot where we weren’t necessarily happy about it going left, left against a lefty. Randal stepped up and had some pretty good numbers against left‑handed pitching and gave him an opportunity and he responded well.

At that point we threw some of the conventional ideas out and who could be our best bat to put in that spot and we really liked how Randal has taken advantage of that. There are times when we get him up and realize that he isn’t much of a bunter, he knows how to get guys over, but what he does is he thumps. And we want him to swing the bat and hopefully he can drive something in the gap or over the fence.

So a little bit different. Not that much unlike what we had last year with Carlos. Carlos came in as a big bat opportunity every time he got in the box to do something big. I think Randal has that potential now and in the future.

Overall that second spot we have bounced around. Jon Jay has done a nice job for us, getting on base and being able to do the small ball. I like how it’s working between the two of them.

Q. How often do you use guts and instinct versus what some of the traditional splits are in? Are you more prone to go with that gut instinct in the postseason or try to be more conservative and go with what the numbers say?

MIKE MATHENY: You know, I don’t think now is the time to start inventing things. We’ve had some things to work through this season, no reason to really necessarily start swaying from those right now.

We take it all into account though. We’ve done the same thing all season. We’re making our decisions the exact same way. We look at the splits. We look at the tendencies. We look at the previous at‑bats. We look at the history and try to make a decision that we feel good about, once we take into account how the guys are swinging at any particular time or how they’re playing defensively.

So it’s worked all right for us up to this point, no reason to start trying to get tricky.

We’ve got a mainstay as far as our lineup goes of guys that we know are going to be in certain spots and we’ve been tinkering around with those other spots all season long. And if we need it we will continue to do so.