LOS ANGELES — As the former Cardinals leadoff hitter Skip Schumaker considered the team’s multiple overtures last winter to return to the organization as bench coach, he was concerned about leaving this Southern California corridor and his family for so much of the year.
The way his first season as a Cardinals coach has gone — teammates again with dear friends, a division lead, Albert Pujols’ storybook finish to his career, a clear chemistry with manager Oliver Marmol — was better than he imagined.
What could possibly be the encore?
Well, a return for one.
As a sign of their respect for him dating to his playing days, the Cardinals outfitted Schumaker’s contract with option language that would allow him to leave after the first year if the fit or distance was not agreeable. Marmol and the Cardinals want and expect Schumaker to return as bench coach for 2023, at least.
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Schumaker agreed, saying, he’s relished the reunion and, “There’s no reason for me not to want to come back.
“If the culture wasn’t the way it is right now, I’d be out. I’d tell you that right now. It’s been fun working with (Marmol), during the games, pregame. It would be tough after being with Oli here, knowing what I know now here, it would be tough being a bench coach with another guy right now.”
After his playing career, which included two titles and a prominent role for the Cardinals’ 2011 World Series winning team, Schumaker eased into a coaching role with San Diego. He was able to commute from his home in Orange County, and over several years moved into the bench coach spot for San Diego.
He’s viewed in the game as a rising candidate to be a manager, and there will be openings this winter. Schumaker continues to say he’ll weigh opportunities based on location, proximity to family. This trip west has given him a week at home — and more afternoons on the field with his high school-age son.
He said he’s been able to find that time, even with the distance.
“Loved every bit of working with him, of having him around,” Marmol said. “The preparation, the conversation. All of it. Having him has been an absolute blast.”
Quintana draws Brewers
The Cardinals are revamping their pitching plans for their final two regular-season games against Milwaukee in order to get their best current pitcher, Jose Quintana, into it. At the same time, they’ll push back Jack Flaherty’s next start and set their rotation for the first-round of the playoffs.
The Cardinals will have Miles Mikolas start Tuesday against the Brewers and follow Wednesday with Quintana on normal rest. He pitched 6⅔ scoreless innings vs. Dodgers on Friday, and he’s allowed two or fewer runs in 10 consecutive starts.
Flaherty still could get two starts in the final six games, and Dakota Hudson also will be considered for a spot start against Pittsburgh.
“We lined it up this way (because) I think this is our best shot to clinch,” Marmol said. “We feel best keeping (Quintana) on five and then it allowed everybody else to line up the way we want moving forward for the rest of the year.”
Marmol’s hope, DeJong’s role
For the second time in four games, Paul DeJong started at shortstop against a lefty Saturday, and that is the role that Marmol wants the former All-Star to own and believes he can even if offensive struggles persist. DeJong struck out three times in three at-bats at San Diego last week to plunge his batting average to .154. In his previous 18 games (seven starts), he hit .069 (two-for-29) with 10 strikeouts.
As much as the Cardinals use his right-handed bat as a matchup vs. a lefty, like Clayton Kershaw on Saturday, it’s DeJong’s glove that gets him the start.
That has been steady.
“You cannot tell what just happened with his at-bats — and that’s to his credit,” Marmol said. “He goes out there and gives you really, really good defense. Regardless of how he’s hitting, he brings value to shoring up our defense late in games. At the end of the day, when you look at the makeup of a club … we haven’t had to count on Paul being the big-slug guy. We’ve done well without that being the case. If he shores up your defense like that he has a value that isn’t there right now on the offensive side.”
DeJong singled in his first at-bat Saturday and finished the game one for three. He did not play Sunday, in a game started by righthander Michael Grove that Los Angeles won 4-1.
Rest and rehab updates
Pujols, two days removed from hitting two homers to reach 700 in his career, on Sunday did not start for the first time on the West Coast swing. With the crowd chanting for him, he did appear as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning. Marmol said the goal was to get Pujols a day off coupled with Monday’s off day.
“I always try to put myself in the shoes of the player whenever I’m thinking about it,” Marmol said. “That’s an emotional ride to do what he did. I think a day game (off) followed by an off day makes sense.”
• Reliever Jordan Hicks (stiff neck, arm fatigue) will begin a throwing progression Monday in St. Louis, one that will reveal when he can be considered for a return to the bullpen.
• If he continues to progress without pain in the coming days, outfielder Tyler O’Neill (hamstring) is set to start a running program Wednesday at Busch Stadium that will get him ready for a late-season return, on the eve of the playoffs.
Turner apologizes to Cards prospect
Dodgers infielder Justin Turner and several teammates watched July’s Futures Game on a computer near the batting cage as they readied for a game in Anaheim, and he saw, live, Cardinals prospect Masyn Winn whip a 100.5-mph throw from shortstop for an out at first base.
Turner did not know Winn had been challenged by a teammate, had been encouraged to let it rip just once for kicks, or how accurate Winn is with high-velocity throws from shortstop. Or, that scouts consider him the finest defensive shortstop in the Class AA Texas League.
What Turner did know is how he saw that throw catch fire on social media, and he wanted to criticize how sizzle gets more attention than substance. Instead, his comments on social media came off curmudgeonly critical of a rising, 20-year-old talent.
Through Pujols, he has attempted to apologize.
“I apologize to Masyn if it offended him in any way because I don’t think it was about him,” Turner said this weekend at Dodger Stadium. “It was nothing personal. I just want to see the game improve and be good. We talk all the time about the stuff that is put on highlights and the stuff that gets taken for granted. He wouldn’t be in the Futures Game if he wasn’t good. I wish him the best. I hope he plays for 20 years and hits 701 homers.”