(BaseballStL) -- You can forgive Cards’ skipper Mike Matheny if he has a bit of an edge these days. “I told the TBS television crew that it is stunning with all that was written about us – like we were in last place – that we should be in first right before the all-star break,” Matheny said before Sunday’s game with the Milwaukee Brewers for undisputed first place in the National League Central.
With the injuries and poor offensive play that marked the first 95 games this season, does Matheny feel lucky to be in first? “I think any team (in first) is fortunate to be there. This just reinforces what we’ve been preaching, that you have to be true to your self and not worry about what (other people) say. We have pride in the way we play.”
The Cards did not take batting or infield before Sunday’s game, feeling that given how hard his club has worked this year and the grind they’ve faced, it would serve them better to relax before the game. Players did not start arriving in the clubhouse as early as normal. Starting pitcher Carlos Martinez arrived after 10 a.m., his Mohawk teased out to several inches in length.
Adam Wainwright was fine this morning after throwing just under 100 pitches Saturday afternoon, Matheny said. “He bounced right back. He’s a real pro,” said Matheny. Despite repeated questioning, the All-Star Game manager would not announce whether Wainwright would start Tuesday or how many innings he might pitch. “It’s his normal day to throw a side session,” Matheny said, meaning he was not worried about overworking his ace.
Matheny was very somber when the topic of the Brewers players-sons whiffle ball game that preceded Sunday’s series finale. The irony of Brewer players having fun with their young sons while Jean Segura was in the Dominican Republic burying his was not lost on the skipper, who is also a father.
“We hurt for the Segura family and (all the Brewers),” he said. Matheny was a member of the St. Louis Cardinals when pitcher Darryl Kile died in 2002. “When something like that happens, you have conversations in that clubhouse you wouldn’t normally have,” he said.
Matheny said he is not surprised at what is happening in the NL Central as just a few games separates the top four teams. He said he expects it to stay this way until the last day of the season. “Once you get past the All Star Game, you start looking forward to that September push.”
George Kottaras continues his crash course in Cardinal baseball. The journeyman catcher, activated Saturday to back up Tony Cruz, has been heavily instructed on what Matheny called “a punch list” of items, like signs, different looks and getting to know the pitchers by talking with bullpen catcher Jamie Pogue and watching countless hours of video. Kottaras caught the final two innings Saturday.