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Banged-up Cards relying on veteran leadership

Pham the latest to go down after St. Louis loses Tejada, Walden, Pena
April 4, 2016

PITTSBURGH -- In the past week, the St. Louis Cardinals have had to send four players to the disabled list. It's another injury epidemic for the Redbirds, but they won't be giving in to doubt or self pity any time soon."I just refuse to look at it that way," Cardinals

PITTSBURGH -- In the past week, the St. Louis Cardinals have had to send four players to the disabled list. It's another injury epidemic for the Redbirds, but they won't be giving in to doubt or self pity any time soon.
"I just refuse to look at it that way," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Monday after his team's optional workout at PNC Park. "It's what we do. It happens to everybody. It happens to us. We don't want it to happen, obviously. We don't necessarily plan on it. But we adjust to it. Now we keep going."
Outfielder Tommy Pham was the latest casualty. He left Sunday's 4-1 loss to the Pirates with a left oblique injury. Prior to that, shortstop Ruben Tejada, who had been brought in to replace the injured Jhonny Peralta, went out with a left quad strain. And before that, injuries hit setup man Jordan Walden and backup catcher Brayan Pena.
The Cards are all too familiar with this sort of thing. Last season, they were hit hard and repeatedly by injuries, losing their No. 3 and No. 4 hitters for long periods, having an entire outfield on the DL at one point, losing ace Adam Wainwright for the majority of the season and losing promising starter Carlos Martinez down the stretch.
That's just a sampling of the 2015 roll call of the wounded Cardinals. But it ought to be recalled that this was a season in which the Redbirds led the Majors with 100 regular-season victories.

The Cardinals are greatly aided in overcoming injuries by the significant quality and quantity of their organizational depth. But there is an intangible attitude that also is a real plus in these situations. Matheny is big on focusing not on misfortune, but on what needs to be done next. But he says he has plenty of help in that regard from veteran leadership on the club.
"It's not just my messaging, it's also the thought-philosophy in [the clubhouse]," Matheny said. "They've been through it before. You talk about leadership. You try to define it. Some of the things that get overlooked, I think, are the consistency of certain guys who have been around here for a while, and they've seen teams that have taken major hits where everybody says, 'Now that's the thing that's going to put them under,' and they just keep going about their business.
"That's real leadership. You can have whatever kind of message you want coming out of this office, but if they aren't buying it in there, and they're not going about their work, you're wasting your breath with your voice in here."
So in a way, it is helpful that the Cards have already experienced a glut of injuries.
"The consistent voices are: 'We've been here before,'" Matheny said. "Last year was a great reminder of how stuff like that happens, and you just keep playing the game."

Matheny said that he had played on teams during his 13-year Major League catching career that sustained major injuries and allowed that situation to damage their seasons.
"I'm not going to name one particular team or one particular situation, but you could see it," the manager said. "You could feel it. Teams are almost looking for an excuse sometimes. I haven't seen any of that around here in a long time. It's just something that can happen to any club if you're not real careful about it.
"I think there are quite a few guys in [the clubhouse] who have seen it done differently, too, to where you can sense the sky is falling, because people want to believe it or they get influenced. But that's just not something that we do."
And Matheny said the pervasive attitude in the clubhouse is a reflection of the attitude of the organization, from ownership to the front office, from the coaching staff and the players.
"Everything has to be consistent throughout the organization to have the consistency you want at the other levels. Our leadership starts with how we're represented up top and how they've gone about their business. They've continued to give us the resources, but you sense that this is a group that says: 'OK, now what? Let's go.'
"We're not necessarily ever minimizing how it affects these individuals. You hate to have these guys go down. But collectively, it's: 'Let's go. Now we've got something to do.' I think that's important messaging all the way through. But I think it's most important when you see it lived out, played out in the clubhouse."
The Cardinals called up shortstop Aledmys Diaz from Triple-A Memphis to take Pham's spot on the roster. Based on St. Louis' track record, he will help. But when it comes to compensating for an injury, the other 24 Cards players will also be on the same page, the right page.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for