(BaseballStL) — It’s been an unusual season for Daniel Descalso. Even with the ability to play any infield spot, the 27-year-old utility man is on pace to see fewer chances this season than in any previous year.
Still, baseball tests a player’s readiness indiscriminately, forcing performance regardless of exposure or previous opportunity.
Friday night, Descalso was tested.
With one out in ninth, the Marlins had the bases loaded in a one-run game. Casey McGehee was at the plate, and when Trevor Rosenthal loosed a change up, he pounded it into the ground to third. Matt Carpenter fielded a tough hop and wheeled to throw to second, where Descalso, getting the start in place of Mark Ellis, was waiting.
The Cardinals needed a double play, and this one was going to be tough.
“We turn double plays every day. We take pride in our ground balls and our early work,” Descalso said. “So when you do get in a situation like that you don’t panic, you just go out there and turn it.”
With McGehee tearing down the line and Giancarlo Stanton bearing down on second base, Descalso had to catch the ball, clear a lane and fire a perfect throw to first in an instant. Any mistake in the footwork, the exchange or the release and the game would be tied.
He was picture perfect.
“[Danny is] always ready. He’s had a really difficult, weird season without a lot of opportunities. When he gets them, he’s ready to play the game,” Matheny said afterward. “The game was right there in his hands, and none of us are surprised he made the big play for us.”
The Cardinal manager has spoken often this year about Descalso’s lack of chances, saying on multiple occasions the versatile infielder deserves more. Regardless of frustration or stagnation, the California native proved once again he’ll never blink when his number is called.
“I’ve been turning double plays every day for seven eight years now. I’ve turned thousands of double plays,” he said. “So you do your preparation and when the game time comes you don’t have to worry about ‘are my feet right?’ ‘How’s my exchange?’ You just go out there and do it.”
To do it consistently at different positions is a talent few athletes possess. To do it so dependably with so much time between game action is invaluable. Each position Descalso plays is unique in it’s responsibilities, footwork, ball behavior and throwing angle. No matter where he plays, he looks like he’s been there all his life.
“Repetition, you know? At the different spots. If you put in the work and practice the right way, hopefully when you go out there in the game that practice pays off and you just go out there and do it. You don’t have to think,” he said.
Even after deftly handling a game-saving play, Descalso was still practicing. After most of the Cardinals had gone home, he went over film with hitting Coach John Mabry before returning to an empty clubhouse to humbly answer questions about the contest’s final play.
With the all flash of home runs, and the jaw dropping domination of complete game shutouts, it’s easy for moments like Friday night to get washed away. But when the final standings come out, each win will matter. The 47th one of 2014 was secured by Daniel Descalso, and it certainly won’t be the last.