Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

First Base

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

First Base

Article excerpt

EXPECTATIONS

Although Allen Craig missed time in the field early in the spring with a sore shoulder, this should be the year he plays 140 or more games for the first time. Defensively, Craig's better position may be in the outfield but he fits the Cardinals more at first base and especially fits in the cleanup spot. With a .400 average with men in scoring position last year, Craig led all major league players in that department.

Both Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman have called Craig a natural fourth-place hitter. And, given good health, he should get to 100 runs batted in this season after knocking in 92 in only 119 games last year, which began with Craig on the disabled list as he healed from offseason knee surgery. Craig has always hit, compiling a .308 minor league average at four different levels and an even .300 average in the majors in 783 at-bats. In the field, he improved last year with more consistent time at first base. If Craig makes the routine plays, the Cardinals will be satisfied because he is an All- Star caliber hitter.

The World Series champion San Francisco Giants established Craig as the Cardinals' biggest threat in last year's National League championship series and pitched him tougher than anybody else in the lineup, holding him to two singles and a double in 24 at-bats.

Craig had earned his spurs in the 2011 World Series when he delivered two key pinch hits in the first two games and then hit three homers later in the Series once he got into the lineup.

"You get guys in scoring position and you give him too many opportunities, he's eventually going to make something happen," manager Mike Matheny said. "That's what he does. There are some guys who really do make the most of those opportunities, and Allen's stats back it up."

PLAN B

Big Matt Adams, actually not as big as he used to be inasmuch as he lost 20 pounds in the offseason, will be a big-league first baseman. And he will be a backup on this team. …

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