JUPITER, Fla. (AP) -- Skip Schumaker will be feeling a lot more comfortable when he takes his spot at second base for the St. Louis Cardinals' spring training opener on Thursday.
Schumaker admitted the transition from the outfield last spring wasn't very smooth and at times he doubted the move would work.
"It's going to be a little less embarrassing this spring training," Schumaker said. "Just routine plays that high schoolers make look easy I was messing up. Our pitchers pitch to contact and I didn't want to be a liability. The biggest worry to me was not being trusted."
Schumaker learned a lot about humility on the way to finishing last spring with five errors. The hard work started paying off and by midseason Schumaker was feeling a lot more comfortable. By the end of the season he had manager Tony La Russa praising his work.
"It's the most impressive thing I have ever seen a player do on a club I've managed as far as the transition and the importance and the quality on a team that ended up winning," said La Russa, who is starting his 31st season as a big league manager.
Schumaker and the Cardinals recently agreed to a $4.7 million, two-year contract that gives the 30-year-old player some security. He hit .303 with four homers and 35 RBIs in 153 games last year.
La Russa was looking for a way to get Schumaker's bat in the lineup when he decided to move him from an overcrowded outfield. The experiment, though, required a lot of patience from both sides.
"It was a tough situation," shortstop Brendan Ryan said. "He only found out days before he got here. The guy is a perfectionist. Anyone who sees him in the cage sees that."
Ryan said there were days that he "wanted to go over and give him a hug." But that was before Schumaker said he slowed down and stopped overthinking.
"Tony expressed to me he was going to give me a long leash and let me go through the growing pains," Schumaker said. "Lucky he did. It was bad the first few weeks."
Schumaker finished the season with 10 errors, one while playing the outfield. The previous year he played all 151 games in the outfield, making just three errors.
Through it all, Schumaker never allowed the difficult transition to affect his offense. He solidified his spot as the leadoff hitter with a .364 on-base percentage. He walked 52 times and scored 85 runs.
With Matt Holliday hitting cleanup for the entire season behind Albert Pujols, Schumaker knows he has one job offensively.
"The whole point of the transition was the ability to hit around .300 and the ability to get on base for Albert and the big guys," he said. "If I didn't hit, the transition would have been pointless."