NEW YORK • After his slow start to the season reached a nadir Wednesday night when he failed to drive in a run with something as possible as a groundball, Cardinals shortstop Jhonny Peralta received Thursday off to clear his head and find his swing.
“He’s frustrated, like you or I or anybody else would be when you continue to press and try to impress,” manager Mike Matheny said. “He’s the new guy in a new town and a new team. He wants to show what he can do. It’s going to be there again. He comes up in the big situation and he’s going about it the right way but physically in the application he’s struggling to get it done.”
Peralta’s popup to the second baseman with two runners in scoring position made him hitless in 21 consecutive at-bats. His average sank to .151.
The Cardinals’ $53-million addition this offseason said he spent the day working in the cage with hitting coach John Mabry. The goal, Peralta explained, was to improve his timing and pitch recognition. Many of the pitchers he’s facing are new to him, and he has complicated the adjustment by being unable to find a rhythm at the plate.
Matheny described his new shortstop as “soft spoken” and not an easy read when it comes to what will help. Matheny said he and the coaches are trying different things to find out “what buttons to push.”
“Right now it’s just not a really good time for me,” Peralta said. “And for a lot of the guys on the team. We’re fighting every day, trying to get things going on.”
Beyond the hefty contract that preceded Peralta’s arrival as the offensive upgrade the Cardinals sought at second base, there is the additional shadow of his banned-substance suspension. Peralta has said that he intends to play his way out of that muck and that it hasn’t placed added wait on his bat.
“I don’t sense that other stuff as much as he just wants to do what he can to help this team win,” Matheny said. “He’s not getting heat from city to city. You’ll hear one fan when there aren’t many in the stands. It’s just baseball. He’s pressing for this team. He wants to show everybody what he can do. Sometimes less is more.”
Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright completed his usual between-start bullpen throw without hesitation or incident Thursday and the righty said he’s certain to start Sunday, as scheduled. Wainwright hyper-extended his right knee when reaching for a popup in the infield Tuesday. He reported improvement in the knee each day since having to leave the start.
Cardinals starter Lance Lynn was asked after his start Thursday what he uses when conditions are chilly or gusting, as they have been at Citi Field, to get a grip on the baseball.
“I grab it with my fingers,” he joked.
How pitchers get a better feel for the baseball was all the rage in New York after Yankees starter Michael Pineda was caught Wednesday with pine tar smeared on his neck. Pineda was suspended 10 games. Baseball has long had a fickle application of the foreign substance rules. Most mounds have a rosin bag for the pitcher – a foreign substance that is somehow OK.
During the World Series last year, Boston pitcher Jon Lester appeared to have a smudge of pine tar on his glove, though the Cardinals did not complain and Matheny moved quickly to dismiss it as an issue.
“I didn’t think that was the reason we lost the game,” Matheny repeated. “We’re not going to start pointing fingers. I don’t think that’s the right way to go about it after you’ve lost a game. If we thought somebody was doctoring up a ball where they’re creating movement — we’ve tried to catch them.”
The Mets were asked after the game if they took notice of Lynn going repeatedly to his cap and rubbing his fingers against something. The Mets brushed off the question. Lynn explained that it’s rosin. He places it on his left wrist and on his cap, and as he gets sweaty during the game he goes to the cap for the rosin to get a better grip.
• Oscar Taveras (ankle) returned to Class AAA Memphis’ lineup Thursday night. He started in left field and batted No. 3.
• For the third time on the trip, backup catcher Tony Cruz started in place of Yadier Molina with Lynn on the mound. Cruz and Lynn have played together since High-A, and Matheny has used their connection as a welcome reason to rest Molina.