PHILADELPHIA • Ryan Theriot found his way into the starting lineup Sunday night for only the third time this month as he received an opportunity against Philadelphia Phillies lefthander Cole Hamels.
Unseated as Cardinals starting shortstop by the trade July 31 for Rafael Furcal, Theriot is dealing with part-time status for the first time since his rookie season in 2006. The club's opening day leadoff hitter also has received advice from manager Tony La Russa that a modified offseason conditioning program to promote quickness over bulk may be helpful to his future.
"I think he got stronger and it may have cost him a little quickness," said La Russa, adding that he has communicated the same message to the player. "He wanted to hit more power and bulked up some."
Theriot says he arrived in Jupiter, Fla. this February at 190-195 pounds — just as had done previously with the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers. Theriot typically sheds weight during the season, ending up around 185. However, he says less consistent playing time the last six weeks also has caused him to fight weight gain.
Theriot challenges the notion that he lost quickness from last season to this. Rather, he says that he obsessed over early fielding difficulties, becoming more timid than aggressive on defense for the first time in his career.
Of his 18 errors this season, Theriot has committed 17 in 755 innings at shortstop, compared to one in 147 innings at second. Concerning himself with mechanics in April and May didn't help.
"The first thing — almost the only thing I heard when I walked into spring training were questions about defense. It never really stopped," Theriot said. "You make an error in a spring game and then you hear it even louder. At some point, I stopped thinking about making a great play and became more concerned about making a mistake. That's not how I play. I've never played timid — ever. If I messed up, I'd think about making the next play."
Theriot has moved from shortstop to second base in each of the last two seasons. That does not mean he is prepared to consider himself a right-side defender.
"I don't think at this point in my career I see myself as a second baseman," he said. "That said, I have no problem going to play second base. It doesn't bother me at all."
The Cardinals led the division until July 27, four days before the Furcal acquisition. Speaking only about his own role, Theriot noted, "When I was playing shortstop we were in first place. I know that. It is what it is."
Manuel keeps 'A' Team in
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel saw no reason Sunday to radically alter the lineup that clinched the NL East the night before. La Russa said he would have it no other way.
Manuel, well aware the Cardinals are a factor in the wild-card race along with the Atlanta Braves and the San Francisco Giants, started six of the same eight position players.
Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, who is dealing with chronic heel discomfort that probably will require a cortisone injection, and catcher Carlos Ruiz were the only players not to return against Chris Carpenter.
"When we were trying to be a wild card we used to check box scores," recalled Manuel. "I saw some games on the West Coast and the closers they were using and I'd laugh. I thought it was a joke because they weren't giving us a chance. It's respect for the game — not only for the Cardinals and Braves, but for the game."
"I totally agree," said La Russa, who has been in Manuel's situation numerous times. "That's the right thing to do. That's the game of baseball. We want to play that team."
Cardinals flex Quads
The Quad Cities River Bandits won their first Midwest League (Class A) title since 1990 Saturday night when they completed a sweep of their best-of-five series over Lansing. The River Bandits went 7-0 during three rounds of playoffs under manager Johnny Rodriguez. Quad Cities put together a 79-55 record that included a 41-27 second half title.