ST. LOUIS -- The late July injury suffered by Matt Holliday has allowed Stephen Piscotty an opportunity to get the quantity of at-bats the Cardinals intended for him, but also the chance to do it without the added pressure of playing a mostly unfamiliar position. The sudden need for a fill-in left fielder led the Cardinals to pause their plans to try Piscotty out at first base.
However, an absence of game action at first hasn't precluded Piscotty, the Cardinals' No. 2 prospect, from preparing for upcoming opportunities. Almost daily, Piscotty has taken the field with his first baseman's glove before the start of batting practice, ready for tutorials with infield coach Jose Oquendo. They have talked about footwork, positioning, hands and anticipation in an effort to increase Piscotty's comfort level at a position he has played only sparingly since college.
He got the chance to put practice into play in Thursday's 10-5 loss to the Pirates.
Wanting to get Peter Bourjos a start in center field, manager Mike Matheny did some defensive shifting for the team's series finale against the Pirates. Randal Grichuk moved to left, which bumped Piscotty to first base. It was his third Major League start at the position, but first since July 29.
"I've been doing [pregame work] every day and feeling more and more comfortable," said Piscotty, who made just six starts at first base in the Minors. "It will be great to get out there and get some more looks."
The Cardinals will use the game (and subsequent ones) as an opportunity to evaluate how feasible it may be to use Piscotty regularly at first base in the coming weeks. That would be an especially intriguing option once Holliday returns and ends the left-field void.
"I think the more we watch him, the more we'll know," Matheny said. "We know he can do it, but maybe we'll find out some of the things he needs to improve on. Just like we've talked about pretty consistently with his approach at the plate, he's a quick study. He figures things out. He's not afraid to do the work, not afraid to ask the questions. Hopefully, he'll continue to move in a good direction."
The desire to make Piscotty more defensively versatile has only been augmented by the production he's provided since his July 21 summons. Before going 0-for-4 Thursday, he had hit safely in his last 10 home games (16-for-34) and had the ninth-best batting average (.348) in the National League since the All-Star break. Piscotty had also gone 9-for-19 with runners in scoring position over his first 20 games.
• Holliday (right quad strain) has not yet been cleared to run, but he has begun taking swings again in the indoor batting cage. Though there remains no timetable for his return, Holliday is hopeful to start jogging within the next week.