JUPITER, FL. (KMOV.com) -- While his longtime teammate was back in a familiar place, Matt Holliday was getting his first full-speed audition in a foreign one.
As Adam Wainwright toed the rubber in his first spring start, Holliday made his debut at first base.
“Really pretty uneventful,” the 36-year-old said afterward. “But I’m sure there’s plenty of time for that.”
Holliday took one throw from an infielder during his four innings, and fielded a pickoff attempt from Wainwright in the first inning. The throw from the Cardinal ace was an ugly one, short-hopping in front of him as the runner slid in.
“Have to kinda keep him on his toes over there,” Wainwright said, flashing a grin. He quickly admitted it wasn’t purposeful, just a bad throw. “I’m testing him.”
Holliday deftly moved in front of the ball, keeping the runner at first without any trouble. Ultimately, the play was a minor footnote in a sleepy spring game, but it still caught the eye of manager Mike Matheny.
“That was a great block!” the manager said with a chuckle. “He’s got to be out early Wednesday for catcher’s blocking.”
Despite the relatively low-key day, Holliday got a few tests in positioning and instincts. There were a few balls hit into the outfield with men on base, and the former (current? both?) outfielder slid perfectly into position.
“There was a chance where he was going to do a cutoff and I wasn’t even watching the cutoff and relay, I was watching him,” Matheny said. “He was right where he needed to be. Everything seemed to come pretty natural to him.”
“I know where to go,” Holliday said. “I’m probably not going to be 100 percent good at it yet, but I have a pretty good idea of what to do.”
The more he plays in the field, the less latency will exist between a situation developing and his reaction to it. Drills can teach a player where to go and when, but until it’s instinctive, there exists a chance for a costly delay or mistake. That’s why, if he’s going to be used at first in the regular season, he hopes to get more game training.
“It just depends, talking to Mike, how much he wants be to do during the season. If it’s going to be something I’m doing regularly, then I need to got a lot of time here in spring training,” he said. “Just not have to think about it as far as positioning on relays and bunt plays and things like that. Just getting to where you can play instinctively.”
Matheny has said he’ll decide how much to play Holliday at first based on the first few tests. If things look good, he’ll continue the experiment. Monday was a minor step, but a positive one in giving the Cardinals- and their veteran power hitter- some versatility.