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Allen Craig, who is mired in a 3-for-31 slump to start the season, will bat in the No. 6 spot instead of his customary cleanup role. Craig will hit in front of Jhonny Peralta, who is also slumping with a .069 average.

"I never want any group of guys who aren't hitting, but you're going to have those," Matheny said. "The thing is with both of those guys, no one's going to take a deep breath and start pitching around one just because they know the danger that both of them have every time they walk into the box. They are one swing away from getting really locked in.

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Allen Craig, who is mired in a 3-for-31 slump to start the season, will bat in the No. 6 spot instead of his customary cleanup role. Craig will hit in front of Jhonny Peralta, who is also slumping with a .069 average.

"I never want any group of guys who aren't hitting, but you're going to have those," Matheny said. "The thing is with both of those guys, no one's going to take a deep breath and start pitching around one just because they know the danger that both of them have every time they walk into the box. They are one swing away from getting really locked in.

Full Game Coverage

"These are guys who just aren't flash-in-the-pan guys. They are guys who have shown they can do it at this level and they will do it. It's just a matter of when. It's just a matter of getting that good consistent feel at the plate that they can repeat."

Jason Motte threw a simulated game in extended spring training in Jupiter, Fla., on Friday. Though Matheny told reporters that he hadn't gotten a report on the outing before Friday's game against the Cubs, Motte tweeted that he threw 18 pitches and that it went well.

• The Cardinals begin a stretch of 20 games in 20 days with the series opener against the Cubs on Friday night. The early workload seems to benefit the team, as the Cardinals own the NL's best record (207-145, .588) in March/April games since 2000.

• Triple-A Memphis ripped Omaha, 10-1, on Thursday. Stephen Piscotty went 3-for-5 and drove home three runs, and Joey Butler and Xavier Scruggs each homered.

Randal Grichuk and Oscar Taveras each had three hits and combined to score five runs.
Starter Tim Cooney improved to 2-0 with a 0.73 ERA and David Aardsma and Lee Stoppelman combined to pitch 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief.

Joe Harris is a contributor to MLB.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

St. Louis Cardinals