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Carpenter gets creative in return

Cardinals' first baseman reaches on bunt single in first plate appearance since March 1
MLB.com @LangoschMLB

JUPITER, Fla. -- Matt Carpenter understood the directive as he stepped to the plate for his third-inning at-bat on Thursday: Do not swing.

And so, he improvised.

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JUPITER, Fla. -- Matt Carpenter understood the directive as he stepped to the plate for his third-inning at-bat on Thursday: Do not swing.

And so, he improvised.

View Full Game Coverage

Carpenter, sidelined by back tightness since March 1, returned to the lineup on Thursday, albeit in an unfamiliar spot and with restriction. He hasn't felt comfortable enough to resume swinging without limitation again, but did want to log some innings at his new everyday position, first base.

Video: Carpenter making progress with switch to first base

The Astros, though, did not seem to be aware of Carpenter's restrictions and moved into a defensive shift when he came up for his first plate appearance. Carpenter saw an opportunity and laid down a two-strike bunt. He reached first without a throw.

"I wasn't going to swing and wasn't going to do anything, really," Carpenter said. "I saw the shift, and it was either stand there and take a strike or try to get a base-hit bunt. I saw that opportunity and did it."

It was the only at-bat Carpenter took in the Cardinals' 3-0 loss to Houston. He played five innings in the field.

"I want to continue getting that work in, and we thought this was a good opportunity to do it," Carpenter said. "The other part is I just want to be involved. I hate sitting around. For the most part, I feel really good. The only thing I feel it [with] is swinging, and even then, I think I'm pretty close. It was good to get to be a part of it today."

Carpenter is likely to see additional time in the field before getting clearance to take cuts in a spring game. He intends to resume swinging in the batting cage on Monday and, barring any setbacks, hopes to be playing, uninhibited, in Grapefruit League games by the following weekend.

Video: STL@MIA: Carpenter crushes a two-run homer to right

If Carpenter can meet those goals, he'd have two weeks to get himself ready for the start of the regular season.

"I thought it was effective," Matheny said of Carpenter's work on Thursday. "He got to move around the base, had to use his instincts backing off one time. He looked good. You can tell he's been working and feeling more comfortable. It was just what we needed him to do."

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast.

St. Louis Cardinals, Matt Carpenter