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An Interesting Monday Night Lineup

The St. Louis Cardinals’ lineup for tonight’s game against Cliff Lee and the Philadelphia Phillies has been posted. The batting order looks normal, but pay attention to the positions:

  1. Theriot – SS
  2. Jay – CF
  3. Pujols – 3B
  4. Holliday – LF
  5. Berkman – 1B
  6. Craig – RF
  7. Molina – C
  8. Punto – 2B
  9. Westbrook – P

That’s right…Albert Pujols starts at third tonight. Lance Berkman takes his place at first, and Allen Craig—who originally was slated to play second base, for some reason—has been bumped to right field. Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has the reasoning and timeline for the switcheroo. On 101.1 ESPN radio in St. Louis, Bob Ramsey asked where this has been all year if Pujols is capable of playing third?

I would like to take it a step further: Where was this last year, when the Cards were running out butt-asses like Pedro Feliz and Felipe Lopez for two thirds of the season? The Hot corner was a major hole for the Cards in 2010, and though it wasn’t the only reason they finished second, the dearth there certainly was a factor. So what changed? I always thought Pujols playing at third base wouldn’t work because of his elbow and the risk of injury. I guess he’s better now. Or maybe the Cards aren’t concerned about that risk anymore.

 The other moves I’m on board with, although obviously Pujols is a better defensive first baseman than Berkman. But Berkman’s bat needs to be in the lineup…so why isn’t Daniel Descalso playing third, Punto second, Pujols first, and Berkman right? Can LaRussa simply not bear having Descalso face the left handed Lee? Is that worth the risks associated with the current lineup’s positioning? Maybe this is as much an indictment of Berkman’s play in the outfield and the Phillies’ lefty- and switch-heavy lineup.

Should be an interesting game…maybe an interesting series.

–Chris

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