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03 May 2011

Craig Gets Crack at Hot Corner for Cards

Allen Craig will get the start at third base for the St. Louis Cardinals in tonight's game against the Florida Marlins.  Craig will replace the injured David Freese who broke his hand Sunday when he was hit by a pitch.

Craig began his minor league career with the Redbirds as a third baseman, but was switched to the outfield.  Though always a successful hitter, Craig did not show the same capabilities in the field at the hot corner.  St. Louis manager Tony La Russa had intentions to give Craig some time at third base during spring training, but many of his innings were devoted to getting a longer look at prospect Matt Carpenter.

Freese has been a valuable part of the potency of the Cardinals lineup thus far in 2011.  He goes on the DL with a season batting average of .356 and 14 RBI.  He has exhibited a knack for delivering in the clutch,  hitting .500/.563/.500 with 2 outs and runners in scoring position, knocking in 6 runs in 14 such at bats this season.

Craig's Bat is Best Replacement
Though anticipated to be a hack in the field, Craig's powerful hitting stroke is really the best option the ball club has to replace Freese in the lineup.  Daniel Descalso has shown he can pick it at third base in his brief big league career, and Nick Punto is a proven veteran gloveman at third.  But neither has the power to back up Lance Berkman in the 6-hole in the lineup. 

The loss of Freese gives frightening reminders of the problems at third base last season.
Felipe Lopez and Pedro Feliz proved frustratingly inept at the plate, and that black hole coupled with the lack of offense from shortstop meant Cardinal rallies ended when the bottom of the lineup came up to bat.  Skip Schumaker has the ability to shore up the end of the lineup, but he's at least three weeks away from returning from injury.

Craig has an impact bat.  In 33 AB this season, he is hitting .303 with 1 HR and 7 RBI, though he's been limited to only 12 games played due to his own stint on the DL.  And while his MLB career has been spotty, he has hit when given regular at bats.  He was an absolute rake at Triple-A Memphis.

The Bat Must Make Up for the Glove
The hope in this corner is that Craig can play third just well enough to earn 3-4 AB's in 4-5 games per week until Freese can finally come back.  Craig must improve on his horrible fielding stats at third with the big league team - one chance, one error.  It would be good for Craig to get a second chance in the first inning tonight - a simple play made flawlessly.  It would be good for his confidence.

The Cardinals need that, because they need his bat.

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