St. Louis Cardinals: Five Things to Watch in First Chicago Series
How much do we see Jeremy Hazelbaker and Aledmys Diaz?
Well, after a blistering first eight or so games to start his Major League career, Jeremy Hazelbaker’s batting average is down to a measly .394 after an 0-6 stretch over the weekend.
He seems to be cooling off (understandably) from his torrid start, but the fact still remains that he leads the club in OPS and Slugging (save Eric Fryer‘s impressive afternoon on Sunday.)
His speed is an obvious asset, and the Cardinals don’t have to face lefty John Lester in the series.
Does Mike Matheny give Hazelbaker a start in the outfield tonight against another club that’s never seen him before in Chicago, or does he favor the suddenly red hot Brandon Moss, who leads the club with four home runs?
If Matheny’s lineups so far in 2016 serve as any indicator, it’s a pretty safe bet that he’s going to stay with the hot hand, which happens to be Moss more so than Hazelbaker at the moment.
Even so, Hazelbaker still figures to be the first left-handed bat off of the bench, and he could very easily get a start in the getaway 1:45 CST series finale on Wednesday.
Next topic, Cardinal shortstop Aledmys Diaz, who is hitting a middling .406 himself going into play tonight.
To complicate matters, Ruben Tejada makes his return to the club from the DL tonight. Greg Garcia got the boot to Memphis, and it seems like we have a two-man rotation of Tejada and Diaz forming at shortstop.
How much of a platoon or starter/backup situation that becomes has a lot to do with what Aledmys Diaz does (or does not do) with the bat.
There’s no way Matheny throws Tejada right back in tonight with Diaz swinging the hottest stick on a red hot offensive unit.
As far as I’m concerned, Tejada is the backup to Diaz, a utility man alongside Jedd Gyorko. Of course, an 0-8, 0-10 type stretch out of Diaz at the dish could change that outlook pretty quickly.
Diaz had better make sure he stays focused defensively, too. Don’t take a step back and boot a couple of balls in the series.
I firmly expect Diaz to start, at minimum, each of the first two games against Chicago, with the finale on Wednesday as a wild card based on how he’s performed and how Tejada has been used in the series.
Next: Chicago's Bullpen vs. St. Louis' Bench