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Trying to stay sharp, Schumaker a vocal leader

SAN View Full Game Coverage FRANCISCO -- Skip Schumaker spent the season doing his best to thrive in a platoon role, as manager Mike Matheny spent much of the year divvying up playing time between three second basemen.

Late in the season, however, Matheny settled on Daniel Descalso to be his everyday guy, leaving Schumaker with the tough task of staying sharp without the benefit of regular playing time.

During the regular season, Schumaker, when healthy, never went more than five days in a row without a start. Now, he has none since the start of the postseason on Oct. 5, a span of 10 days and counting.

"It's tougher in the postseason, because at least during the season, you'll make spot starts and can stay fresh and sharp," said Schumaker, who was hitless in four pinch-hit at-bats this postseason heading into Game 1 of the National League Championship Series on Sunday. "I was talking to [utility player] Matt Carpenter about it, because he was frustrated that his timing doesn't feel good. I feel the same way. We have to figure out more stuff, because right now, with the way our starting pitching has been, there haven't been [many] at-bats to go around."

Part of that answer is extra work in the batting cage, something Schumaker said is becoming a part of his regular routine now. The club is also expecting Jake Westbrook to throw a simulated game later in the week, which would provide the team's five bench players an opportunity to see live pitching.

While Schumaker's on-field impact this postseason has been negligible, his presence in the dugout and the clubhouse continues to be critical. He was among the most vocal during the team's NL Division Series Game 5 comeback against the Nationals, and his experience as a part-time player has enabled Schumaker to be a sounding board for the Cardinals' younger bench players.

"For a young, inexperienced manager to have a veteran on his team that he knows understands and is willing to share that kind of personality and that kind of perspective really puts out a lot of other fires with some guys who might not be happy, as well," Matheny said. "... Skip has been incredible with how he's led inside that clubhouse in that regard."

St. Louis Cardinals