ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Matt Holliday's injury convinced St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa to bat his pitcher eighth for the first time this season.
La Russa said if Holliday were healthy he would have used a standard lineup card Sunday with the Cardinals trying to avoid a three-game season-opening sweep against the San Diego Padres. Holliday missed his second game after having an appendectomy Friday and is expected to miss at least a week.
Holliday was at Busch Stadium on Sunday and La Russa said his cleanup hitter wasn't as sore as he was Saturday.
"Did you think we were going to lose Matt Holliday the first game of the year?" La Russa said. "
With left-hander Jaime Garcia hitting eighth, Daniel Descalso batted ninth and played third base. In La Russa's view, this makes Albert Pujols the cleanup hitter after the first time through the order.
Jon Jay also got his first start batting second against Padres right-hander Dustin Moseley.
The manager said the Cardinals' slow start had nothing to do with juggling the bottom of the lineup. He had the pitcher bat eighth 85 times last season, using the ninth-place hitter as a second leadoff man. Last year, shortstop Brendan Ryan batted ninth 53 times.
He also likes to get bench players involved as soon as possible.
"I mean, I wouldn't call it a slump," La Russa said. "It's a brand new day and with Matt not in the lineup you look to try and create some extra run-scoring opportunities in the middle of your lineup."
La Russa said his job is to not to ignore the early season results but to remember it's a long season.
"If you think a guy is a tough out and he has a couple bat at-bats, you don't think he's a bad hitter," La Russa said. "If you think a guy has some weaknesses and he goes out and get three hits twice, right away you don't start thinking he's Albert (Pujols) Junior.
"Some guys rise to the occasion, other guys sometimes early they're pressing so much they need to get into the season a little bit."
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)