ST. LOUIS -- On a day when the Cardinals learned that they'd be without starting third baseman Jedd Gyorko for at least the next few weeks, Greg Garcia showcased his ability to step in as a suitable replacement.That's not to say the Cardinals will recoup all that they are losing,
ST. LOUIS -- On a day when the Cardinals learned that they'd be without starting third baseman Jedd Gyorko for at least the next few weeks, Greg Garcia showcased his ability to step in as a suitable replacement.
That's not to say the Cardinals will recoup all that they are losing, which is a player with middle-of-the-order pop who emerged as one of the steadiest defenders at the position. But Garcia, as was displayed in Sunday's 3-2 loss to the Rays at Busch Stadium, has the ability to work his way on base, which could help spark an offense that has stalled.
"Whenever my name is called upon, I've always said I'll be ready to try my best for the team," Garcia said after his three-hit afternoon. "Obviously, it's going to be tough to do it without Jedd, but we know he's going to get back to us. For me, I know I'm not going to hit the ball out of the ballpark, so I have to try and get on base for the guys who can on our team."
After emerging from a mentally draining June funk in which he went 6-for-45, Garcia has settled back into his part-time role. He's reached base safely 21 times in his last 16 games, and, among all players with a minimum of 50 at-bats, Garcia boasts the sixth-best on-base percentage (.441) since the All-Star break. His .451 OBP and .333 batting average (14-for-42) in August rank second- and third-highest, respectively, on the team.
Garcia has provided that production, too, despite sporadic starts. Sunday's was Garcia's 11th this month.
"He's just a guy who fits that role very well, and now we're going to have to change [it] a little bit," manager Mike Matheny said. "I think we have some options, which is nice when you lose a player like Jedd for a considerable amount of time. He's going to get more opportunity."
How much more depends on the way in which the Cardinals split playing time between Garcia and first baseman Luke Voit. Voit offers the potential for power. Garcia provides the steady glove and pesky approach. Matt Carpenter will shift back-and-forth between the two corner infield spots depending upon on whether it's Voit or Garcia (or someone else) who gets the starting nod.
With an expectation of increased playing time coming, Garcia said he will rein in his pregame work and focus his defensive preparation more heavily on third base. It's a position where he's made 21 of his 42 starts this season.
"When I'm not playing, usually during BP I'll take groundballs everywhere and try to tire myself out because I want to stay in baseball shape," Garcia said. "But if I'm playing every day, it's just not smart to do that. You want to keep your legs fresh every day to play nine innings.
"I want to go out there every day and try to get on base every time I'm at the plate any way I can -- bunt, base hit, walk, hit by pitch, whatever. I'm excited for the opportunity."
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.