Bourjos hopes to deliver when Cards call
PHOENIX -- With a seventh-inning home run in Tuesday's 9-1 win over Arizona, Peter Bourjos snapped a hitless skid that extended 21 at-bats over 35 days. Bourjos understood, though, that while a relief, that sort of result is unlikely to buy him much playing time on a team that has bypassed him several times while sifting through various center-field options.
Randal Grichuk took over the position when Jon Jay went down with a thumb injury. Since Grichuk's injury, the Cardinals have used Jason Heyward and, most recently, Tommy Pham to fill the vacancy. As for Bourjos, he continues to await late-game opportunities to pinch-hit, pinch-run or offer his above-average defensive skills.
"You try to do your best in whatever situation you're in and have success with it," Bourjos said before Wednesday's matchup vs. the D-backs. "Obviously, the hitting hasn't really been there, nor have the at-bats, so it's been really tough to get going. I don't care if you're going to be a Hall of Fame hitter. There are not too many guys who are going to have success in a role like that. You try to do your best."
Bourjos has started 39 games this season, but just four since the All-Star break. The lack of playing time has stalled any bit of momentum he has generated at the plate, where he is batting .215/.310/.345 on the season. He is 2-for-21 as a pinch-hitter.
"There was a series against the Mets right after the break when my swing was about as good as my swing has ever felt, and then I don't think I played for another week," Bourjos said. "Then timing becomes hard, and it makes it difficult. It's a tough situation, but you have to do your best with it."
While Bourjos' offensive impact has been limited, he has shown himself as one of the team's most proficient bunters. His sacrifice bunt sparked the team's go-ahead rally on Monday. He helped the Cardinals tie a game last week with a successful sacrifice, as well. The club later won that game by a one-run margin.
"You just have to have different metrics, at least for yourself, when you're in that role," manager Mike Matheny said. "You say, 'OK, I'm not necessarily going to have those consistent at-bats and can't expect to have those numbers that are typically those go-to numbers, but how can I do something to impact this club today?'"
On a day when retired infielder Mark Ellis stopped by to visit with his former teammates, Matheny compared Bourjos' handling of a part-time playing role to the admirable job Ellis did while in that same spot as a Cardinal last year.
"I think most importantly you'll hear [about] selflessness," Matheny said. "It's not all about him or about his playing time, but what he can do. It might be in a different role than how he would have designed it for himself, but he understands that it is an important role nonetheless. Peter has just been as good of a teammate as you can possibly be, especially considering how everything has kind of gone this season."