JUPITER, Fla. (AP) — Third base figures to be an experiment for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Matt Carpenter has moved across the diamond to first, leaving Jhonny Peralta and Jedd Gyorko to compete for time at the hot corner.
A three-time All-Start shortstop, Peralta had not played third base regularly since 2010 until making the switch last year. Gyorko, a utility infielder who led the Cardinals with 30 home runs last year, has made just 38 starts at third in four big league seasons.
“It’s just an open competition,” St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak said. “The chess pieces move. Ultimately we’ve got to decide what we think our best club looks like.”
A spring training thumb injury caused Peralta to miss the season’s first nine weeks last year, and rookie shortstop Aledmys Diaz emerged to hit .300 with 17 homers before he was hit on a hand by a pitch on July 31, ending his season.
Diaz is now the projected starter at shortstop. The 35-year-old Peralta is trying to earn the third-base job in the final season of a $52 million, four-year contract.
“He looks strong swinging wise — that’s kind of the progression with that hand injury, is that it just takes a little while to get that strength back,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said.
Peralta is lauded for positioning and hands but criticized for a lack of range. He had his first spring training hit of the year Wednesday in a 6-1 win over the New York Mets and made a nifty barehanded pickup on Rene Rivera’s one-hopper to third.
“I don’t want to say it’s my best position because I feel good at short, but I feel better and better,” Peralta said. “The more that I played last year — the beginning it was kind of hard for me but at the end of the season I felt pretty good at third base.”
Gyorko played at least 11 games at every infield position last year and had three hits, including a double, in his first six at-bats of spring training. He made 28 starts last year at third, his first there since his rookie year in 2013.
“That was big to get back over there,” he said. “You just never know what’s going to happen.”
Because Kolten Wong still is dealing with a shoulder issue, Gyorko could be asked to slide over to second. Both Gyorko and Peralta hit from the right side, so a traditional platoon doesn’t make sense. Matheny could go with matchups.
“It’s possible the best player is going to be in that particular day — whatever fits best for our club,” Matheny said.
Notes: St. Louis starter Carlos Martinez faced the minimum over three innings in his first outing of spring training. Promising RHP Luke Weaver, who made eight starts for the Cardinals last season, left the game with back spasms in the eighth inning after retiring the first two batters and falling behind 3-1 in the count to his third hitter.
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