CHICAGO -- The Cardinals' search for an uptick in production at first base led them back to Memphis on Wednesday, with the club this time plucking veteran Dan Johnson from the Triple-A team to see whether he can provide a spark on the big league roster.
And in his first game, Johnson did provide a spark, delivering two RBI singles in the Cardinals' 6-5 victory over the Cubs. Johnson made it a 1-0 game with a hit in the second, then increased the lead to 4-0 in the fourth.
General manager John Mozeliak acknowledged that he considered both Johnson and top prospect Stephen Piscotty for promotion. Ultimately, the Cardinals determined that Johnson was the best fit right now. He gives the club another left-handed bat and plays a position where the Cardinals are looking for help.
"And also, we're not afraid to play that hot hand," manager Mike Matheny added of Johnson, who has hit .265 with 11 homers and 42 RBIs in 61 games since signing as a Minor League free agent in early May. "He's been swinging the bat very well. Let's see if he can give us a little boost and ride it and keep giving guys other opportunities, too. We keep looking inside the organization to see who can come up here and help us."
Had the Cardinals summoned Piscotty instead, they would have had to find room to plug him into an outfield that is about to get crowded when Matt Holliday (right quad injury) returns from the disabled list. Piscotty was a late scratch from Memphis' lineup on Tuesday while he was still under consideration for a callup. He has hit safely in 28 of his last 38 games (.308 average) and ranks second in the Pacific Coast League with 28 doubles.
But while this may not have been Piscotty's time to ascend, the Cardinals are readying him for a possible future opportunity at first base. After several weeks of having Piscotty participate in pregame defensive work at the position, Memphis will begin using Piscotty as a first baseman in games within the next week.
Though he's played solely in the outfield the last three seasons, Piscotty was drafted as a third baseman out of college. If the Cardinals aren't going to be able to find at-bats for him in the outfield, they'd like to open up an opportunity by making him more versatile in the field.
"It's been sort of a revolving door to find an answer there," Mozeliak said of first base. "I think Mike has been trying to go with whoever has been that hot hand. That's just tough to put a lineup out there when that's always your decision making."
Since Matt Adams suffered a quad strain in late May, Mark Reynolds, Adams' primary replacement, has hit .207/.274/.339 with three homers, 18 RBIs and 43 strikeouts in 121 at-bats. The Cardinals have used Xavier Scruggs at first recently, as well. He's 11-for-38 in this most recent stint with the Major League team.
Mozeliak said the club will "remain open-minded" in regard to exploring the first-base market in advance of the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. How Piscotty takes to the position transition and how Johnson performs with the Major League team, Mozeliak said, will affect the urgency with which the Cardinals look outside for help.