Matheny’s Quick Hitters – Monday, 5/18/15

Summarizing St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny’s comments before and after his club’s first game in New York plus other tidbits.

Pre-game remarks

On travel: With the team getting into New York at about 3:30 a.m. following the Monday night game in St. Louis, writers asked Matheny if he wanted another ESPN game soon. The manager wisely brushed it off.

On the leadoff spot: The leadoff batter will continue to change, including again on Tuesday with lefty Jonathan Niese starting. Four in four days. In his choice, Matheny wants to “take advantage of a hot hitter right now” and get him “maximum at-bats.” With Jon Jay down, “it created a hole.”

Matheny asked rhetorically if “we have a prototypical leadoff guy” other than Matt Carpenter. He likes what Carpenter is doing in the number two spot. He did not know why Kolten Wong and Peter Bourjos seem to be doing better at the bottom of the lineup, but commented that they “sneak up” on opponents.

The manager said he spoke with Jason Heyward about “his comfort” before placing the right fielder first in the lineup on Sunday. Heyward “has the OBP to support it” and is willing to do whatever the team needs. He was not even against it last year in Atlanta, despite what was reported.

On Matt Harvey: ”This guy is a handful.”

On being a new manager: The combination of the NY media getting their first shot at Matheny and the move of Miami’s general manager into to dugout caused a series of questions about Matheny’s managerial experiences.

Matheny made a candid and self-depreciating comment about his initial success “taking out the doubt that I might get in the way of a successful team.”

After taking a break for his turn pitching batting practice, the manager said he did see some advantage in knowing how the front office works and having previously been a teammate of several players, especially two he had helped earlier in their careers in Chris Carpenter and Yadier Molina.

Matheny admitted he was asked about managing in the minor leagues five to seven years before becoming St. Louis’ skipper, but he was not ready to make the family sacrifices. His oldest was 12 or 13 years of age. Still the Cardinals allowed him to stay involved in the front office and as a roving catching instructor. His situation was different when the St. Louis managerial job came open.

In terms of surprises in the job, Matheny said “there are too many to list” and there are “new ones each day.” Among them are the responsibilities and time demands of the job. He restated an earlier analysis of “drinking through a fire hose” early on.

Matheny said that it took “longer than a year” to get his routine down. For him, working out at the ballpark each day is “almost therapy.”

It is important to him to be “available to guys.” He believes his playing was not mandatory to being a manager but did help him with “credibility” and to “empathize” with guys.

On Shelby Miller: Did not watch his game Sunday, but had reports on it. You can’t turn it off (interest). We talk about family and we care about them. The job description supersedes that when they play directly. Gets a “sense of pride” in Miller’s performance. We were “never short on the belief on what Shelby can do.” He was originally “hard-headed,” having had success before, but last August was a turning point.

On Allen Craig’ struggles and being removed from Boston’s 40-man roster: It hurts. Wonders if something could have been done to help (when Craig was a Cardinal).

On Jaime Garcia: Asked if he watched the lefty’s bullpen session, Matheny nodded his head no. “He’s in!” the manager exclaimed. “It doesn’t matter what I see,” he joked. “Throw strikes Thursday” was Matheny’s advice through the media. With that, our discussion ended.

Other news

Grichuk on EST pitchers: I asked outfielder Randal Grichuk which players stood out in his truncated extended spring training stay. His answer was pitcher Derian Gonzalez, who was throwing in the upper 90’s. He had heard about Sandy Alcantara hitting 102, but did not face him.

16 with 25: When the second baseman set his bat and batting gloves down, I couldn’t help but notice the Mariucci bat with “25” on the knob and “Matt Adams” on the barrel. Apparently, Wong is emulating the big man!

Garcia ready: Before the game, Jaime Garcia threw his final bullpen before Thursday’s start. Word is that his velocity is up and he will be taking the mound with resolve.

Celebrity watch: Tony Cruz called out Larry David in the pregame throng. I could not help but ask Tony to “Curb his Enthusiasm!”

Post-game remarks

On two long nights in a row: “The team did not play like it was a long night.”

On the pitching: “Two tremendous pitching performances.” “Lackey was as good as he could be.” “Tremendous.” “The only blemish was getting around Duda” (in the fourth inning as the Mets scored their first run).

On relievers in the 14th inning: Matheny noted that Sam Tuivailala was nibbling, “not trusting his stuff”. The skipper said he would normally let the pitcher work his way through it, but closer Trevor Rosenthal was hot after warming up four times and he wanted to try to salvage the game.

On pinch-hitting for Lackey: “He might have had only one more inning for a complete game.” Had a good speed player in Bourjos and had to try to score.

On whether Randal Grichuk was searching when striking out five times: “He hasn’t been back long enough to be searching. It was just a bad night.”

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Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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