Diaz dazzles with bat; glove needs work

Rookie shortstop commits 4th error, foiling double-play chance

April 19th, 2016
Aledmys Diaz was batting .400 with a 1.232 OPS in 11 games, but the shortstop also has been charged with four errors. (Getty Images)

ST. LOUIS -- Aledmys Diaz added another extra-base hit to his team-leading total on Monday, sparking what became the Cardinals' lone bit of offensive momentum in a game they'd eventually drop, 5-0, to the Cubs. Such continued contributions with the bat have kept Diaz in the lineup. But might his glove soon knock him out of it?

Diaz committed another error -- his fourth in a 13-game-old season -- on Monday night, turning what might have been a rally-killing double-play ball into an unraveling seventh inning. Starter Mike Leake put himself in trouble with consecutive singles to open the frame, but Diaz's inability to field a sharp grounder by Jorge Soler compounded it.

Diaz's chance at turning two was foiled when he played the ground ball off his chest. His opportunity to garner at least one out was then missed with a sailed throw over the head of first baseman Brandon Moss. All three runners, including Soler, advanced two bases on the sequence. By the end of the inning, a one-run deficit had swelled to four.

"I'm disappointed in that play [because] Leake threw an amazing game today," Diaz said. "It was a hard ball. He hit it pretty well, and I wasn't able to catch the ball the first time. Then I hurried up."

The Cardinals' infield defense has been porous all season, but Diaz has been its most susceptible. He has committed an error in half of his starts, including a costly one in his Major League debut on April 5. That fumble, also on a potential double-play ball, led to an unearned run that stood as the difference in a 6-5 loss.

"Young player. It happens," manager Mike Matheny said afterward. "You're going to make errors. We do also see a trend of him getting better the more he gets out there, the more opportunities."

Diaz wasn't expected to be a defensive liability when the Cardinals signed him to a four-year, $8 million contract in March 2014. In 105 Minor League games last season, Diaz made 17 errors, averaging one every 28 chances.

In a broader sense, the Cardinals have had defensive miscues at the shortstop position all season. Three shortstops have combined for seven errors while awaiting Jhonny Peralta's return this summer. The only team to tally as many errors as the Cardinals' infielders (14) through Monday was the Reds.

Diaz's four errors came in his first 29 chances in the field.

"You have to take the good with the bad, and he's been extremely good," Matheny said. "So we're just going to have to continue to work and improve on the consistency. That comes with time and experience, and it comes with confidence. He needs to see what we see -- the fact that he's an even better defender than what he's shown. He's going to keep figuring it out. He's also done a lot of things for us that we didn't anticipate he would do."