Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Pham to Return after Brief Absence

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Pham to Return after Brief Absence

Article excerpt

Center fielder Tommy Pham, the Cardinals' best overall player so far, said he wasn't at 100 percent to play Sunday as he missed his second game in succession with a groin injury. "I'd rather wait until Tuesday," said Pham, who expects to be in the lineup against the New York Mets.

But where? Hitting second, where he has been in all but two of his starts? Or first, where he reached base seven times and scored four runs when he batted in that spot twice?

And, if Pham is second, where does Yadier Molina hit, after getting five hits and a walk in two games over the weekend? And, of course, who does manager Mike Matheny hit first? Matt Carpenter or Dexter Fowler?

By getting only one hit and a walk in the last two games while batting first, Carpenter may have silenced some of the outcry from people who say he should always hit first because he only hits when he bats first.

"I'm not worried about people," said Carpenter. "We'll see. But I don't care (about the lineup spot). I never care."

Then we have Fowler, who had the ideal game for a leadoff man, walking four times and singling in five plate appearances Sunday. Except that he was hitting fourth.

"They pitch you a little different there," said Fowler, who had drawn only eight walks in 16 games while hitting first.

"But it's not like I'm changing anything. I'm trying to take the same at-bats. The past few weeks I've felt I've been in a good place. I haven't had any luck."

WHAT HAPPENS TO BADER?

Now, considering that the Cardinals have won eight of their last nine games, what happens to the player who is riding a hitting streak of eight games? He is none of the aforementioned.

Harrison Bader, skillfully playing all the outfield spots and stealing bases, has hit safely in the last eight games in which he has had an official at-bat and is hitting .300 for the season. Fowler, for instance, is at .192 and Carpenter at .174.

Bader, who is nine for 23 during his eight-game run, said, "I guess that's pretty cool. As long as we're winning, that's the only thing that matters and I'm contributing to the wins.

The most important thing is winning, whether I play or I don't."

With his three steals, Bader gives the Cardinals something they haven't had, other than Pham, who has five thefts.

"I'm trying to stick," said Bader. "I'd like to think that's why I'm here."

Bader hit .313 with seven doubles this spring but was sent out just before the season started as the Cardinals kept an extra infielder in Yairo Munoz. Bader admitted he fell into the 'why me?' mode briefly.

"It did sting a little because I did feel a part of that team in camp and it was a good camp for me for a lot of reasons," said Bader. "I took a day or two to be in my own head. There's really only one direction to go in this game and that's forward. If you're wasting time thinking about things you can't control, you're doing yourself an injustice. …

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