KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Believing he has the sort of player personnel that would allow for great lineup flexibility this season, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny indicated as early as the Winter Meetings that he would use Spring Training to test run different batting lineup options.
Matheny has done that within the lower two-thirds of the lineup, but he has remained static at the top. For the fourth time in the first six Grapefruit League games, Matheny wrote a lineup that features Matt Carpenter, Jason Heyward and Matt Holliday, in that order, at the top on Tuesday.
There is little reason to believe the Nos. 1-3 spots won't be filled with the same three names come Opening Day.
"We didn't make too many questions about that potentially being a nice fit when we first got Jason," Matheny said. "It's where he feels comfortable. I've been very clear this is probably not a time to mess around with Carp. I think between [Holliday] and Jason and Matt Adams and [Jhonny] Peralta, there is an ability to fool around with that a little bit. For right now, it's a nice fit to get guys a little bit comfortable. It seems to be working."
Carpenter cemented himself as a leadoff hitter two seasons ago and he has the Majors' second-best on-base percentage (.386) among leadoff hitters over the last two seasons. Though Carpenter has stated he'd like to take a more aggressive approach this season, the Cardinals are content in seeing that production still from the top spot.
Holliday has been the team's everyday three-hole hitter since Albert Pujols' exit, so there is a comfort factor in leaving him there. Since assuming that position, Holliday has driven in 270 runs, third-most in the Majors from the No. 3 spot.
Heyward, on the other hand, made at least 11 starts at every spot in the batting order except fourth and ninth during his five seasons in Atlanta. The Cardinals, upon acquiring him in a November trade, were attracted to that luxury of being able to fit him into any number of places.
For now, though, Heyward is settled in the No. 2 hole. Matheny envisions Heyward providing the same production between Carpenter and Holliday that Carlos Beltran did two years ago.
"You think about all the things Jason brings to the plate -- him being able to get on base, which we like from the first couple spots in the order, but also the freedom to drive the ball and get on base and be athletic," Matheny said. "All those are very much in your skill set and fit in that spot pretty well."
Matheny added that it is somewhat of a coincidence that Carpenter, Heyward and Holliday have been on similar playing schedules to open spring. Nevertheless, it has allowed the Cardinals an early glimpse at what will likely be.