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Shildt standing behind Fowler despite struggles

Outfielder tallies RBI double in Cardinals' four-run 2nd inning
MLB.com @LangoschMLB

CHICAGO -- Cognizant that his actions will carry more weight than any promise he makes, interim manager Mike Shildt made his strongest statement yet about his commitment to outfielder Dexter Fowler by starting him against Cubs lefty Jon Lester on Friday.

With right-handed-hitting outfielder Harrison Bader available, Shildt instead stood behind Fowler, who has started all three games since Mike Matheny's dismissal. Friday's start was arguably the most surprising, given that Fowler has just four hits -- only one of which went for extra bases -- in 46 at-bats against lefties this season.

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CHICAGO -- Cognizant that his actions will carry more weight than any promise he makes, interim manager Mike Shildt made his strongest statement yet about his commitment to outfielder Dexter Fowler by starting him against Cubs lefty Jon Lester on Friday.

With right-handed-hitting outfielder Harrison Bader available, Shildt instead stood behind Fowler, who has started all three games since Mike Matheny's dismissal. Friday's start was arguably the most surprising, given that Fowler has just four hits -- only one of which went for extra bases -- in 46 at-bats against lefties this season.

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Furthermore, Fowler was 3-for-18 in his career against Lester, and he was coming off an 0-for-5 performance in Thursday's series opener. Shildt shuffled those numbers aside, and he received instant payoff when Fowler lined an RBI double into the left-field corner in his first at-bat of Friday afternoon's 18-5 win over the Cubs. Fowler finished the day with two RBIs, two hits -- both off lefties -- and two runs scored.

"I think it's important for everybody, including Dexter, to give him an opportunity," Shildt said. "Listen, he had a nice year for us last year. This game is hard. People struggle in it. He's going to get an opportunity to go out there and play. I think it is going to help him, knowing he's going to get that chance. We will evaluate it. I've got no expectation other than he's going to do just fine."

Video: STL@CHC: Fowler plates Gyorko on a sac fly to center

Fowler returned from the All-Star break hoping to bury an unproductive first half in which he posted a slash line of .176/.270/.297 over 74 games. Playing time had been unpredictable and inconsistent over the past several weeks, which is why Shildt sought to assure Fowler that he would be given ample opportunity to turn his season around.

That starts, Shildt said, by giving Fowler at-bats.

"I've had good dialogue with Dex as a bench coach as well," Shildt said. "Part of the role as a bench coach is to create relationships, which is serving me well in this capacity now. One thing that I've expressed to him is, 'Listen, you're going to get your opportunities to play. I want you to get out there and just go about it the way you've always gone about it. Trust your ability and just enjoy it. Go play and know that you're going to be back to where you know you can, and you're going to get the opportunity to do so.'"

Video: STL@ARI: Gomber induces 6-4-3 DP, works out of jam

Worth noting

• The Cardinals will wait until after Saturday's doubleheader to reveal who still start Monday's series opener against the Reds. By postponing the announcement, the club can see how much its pitching staff is stretched in the doubleheader and ensure that weather doesn't change its plans. Lefty Austin Gomber, who started for Triple-A Memphis on Wednesday, is a leading candidate to receive the summons.

• Memphis starter Dakota Hudson will not be the choice, though he lowered his ERA to 2.36 by allowing one run over 6 1/3 innings on Thursday. Hudson, who struck out eight and walked one, leads the Pacific Coast League with 13 wins.

• Though he won't be added to the roster until Saturday, Luke Weaver rejoined the Cardinals in Chicago on Friday. He will be added as the 26th player for Saturday's doubleheader, and he is scheduled to start the first game. John Gant will take the mound in Game 2.

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.

St. Louis Cardinals, Dexter Fowler