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Descalso comes off bench for first start of '14

PITTSBURGH -- The Cardinals have had their share of infield shuffling over the past few years, something reinforced last week when the Cardinals sent an entirely new-look infield out for the opener. The longest-tenured infielder through it all has been Daniel Descalso, though he has also become, at least outside the clubhouse walls, the most easily forgotten.

Descalso entered Spring Training with a slim chance to win regular playing time regardless of what he did. The organization's signing of Jhonny Peralta took him out of the mix at short. Matt Carpenter moving to third will limit opportunities there. And the Cardinals made it no secret that they wanted to give Kolten Wong the first chance at second.

Descalso batted .333 in Grapefruit League play, the second-best average by any position player on the Cardinals' Opening Day roster. There was little he would have been able to do, though, to start anywhere but the bench.

Now, the challenge is for Descalso to try to sustain momentum from that strong spring amid inconsistent playing time. Ten days after his final appearance of the spring, Descalso found himself in the starting lineup for the first time Sunday.

"He's just such a good player all the way around and brings so many different things to the table," manager Mike Matheny said. "Dan goes out there with the intent that there are a lot of things being said about how things are going to play out and it's just something he can't control. What he can control is how he goes out and plays and prepares. Today's one of those days where he can show what he can do. All spring, he was doing the same thing."

Descalso, 3-for-8 in his career against Edinson Volquez, made the start at second, a position he played only sparingly last season because of Carpenter's strong season. He opened the season 0-for-3 off the bench.

"He doesn't let anything get in the way of what he thinks of himself and what he believes," Matheny said. "The thing, fortunately for him, is that we believe it, too. I think he is just a terrific baseball player. And how it fits, you just never know. We're excited to give him opportunities like today, and every time we get him out there to play we know we're going to get a guy that's giving every single thing he's got and not holding back.

"I just want him to stay right where he is and keep going. He prepared very well for the spring, and he's doing all the work he needs to right now, too."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB.
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