CHICAGO -- Though Greg Garcia entered Sunday in an extended slump, the stability he offers the Cardinals at shortstop has been enough to bump him from a utility role to an everyday one this month.
Garcia drew the start at short for a fifth straight game in Sunday's finale with the Cubs and appears to be the team's preferred choice at the position until Aledmys Díaz returns from a broken thumb. It's likely to be September before that happens.
"Obviously there is a high premium put on that shortstop position, and Greg has done a nice job," manager Mike Matheny said. "I think right now he's our best option there defensively."
Even better than long-time shortstop Jhonny Peralta, that is, as Peralta continues to condition himself to game speed after missing much of the first four months with thumb injuries. Peralta will continue to draw the majority of his starts at third.
A Cardinals team that has been hamstrung by poor defense all season is seeking stability at key defensive positions, and Garcia has, statistically, been the best option. Of the five Cardinals to log innings at shortstop this year, he's the only one with a Defensive Runs Saved total (2) above zero. Peralta (-1) and Diaz (-3) have not offered the same level of reliability.
Now, the Cardinals hope Garcia can supplement that with a bit more offense. Garcia entered Sunday hitless in 30 consecutive at-bats and acknowledged that he has compounded the drought by getting away from his grinding approach.
"I think I tried to hit myself out of a little funk instead of trusting what I was doing early on in the year," he said. "Before you know it, there are 15, 20 at-bats that go by. Obviously, there is some luck that is involved, too. When you're not going good, this game will find a way to where those balls aren't going through and those cheap hits aren't coming."
Garcia's eight-pitch at-bat to open the game on Sunday was an indication that his approach is getting back on track, although it ended in a hard line-drive out. He followed that with a hard-hit single in the third to snap his hitless streak.
"We look at quality of at-bats, and when he's hitting deep counts and hitting them hard, you can't be distracted always by the results," Matheny said. "I'm trying to encourage him not to."
• Though the Cardinals have upcoming off-days on Monday and Thursday, Matheny said the club would roll over its rotation in order. This means that Luke Weaver will make his second Major League start on Saturday in Philadelphia.
• The Cardinals expect to know on Monday whether outfielder Matt Holliday will need surgery to help heal a fractured right thumb. Holliday's visit with the organization's hand specialist will also give the club a better picture of the expected timetable for his recovery.