Matheny on lineup: Nothing is 'set in stone'

Matheny on lineup: Nothing is 'set in stone'

JUPITER, Fla. -- Insistent that he has not drawn up a projected batting order in his head, manager Mike Matheny said he will toy with numerous lineup possibilities this spring in an effort to find the most optimal one.

The lineup is an annual hot topic at Cardinals Spring Training, and discussions about shaking it up began earlier than usual this year, after Kolten Wong lobbied for an opportunity to bat leadoff while speaking at the team's January Winter Warm-Up. Wong will likely get a look at that top spot during Grapefruit League play, but others will, too.

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The Spring Training schedule offers a canvas for experimentation since the team's eight projected starting position players will not each play in every game.

"We have nothing set in stone right now," Matheny said. "We'll throw guys out there, see what we see, and then try to put together the best one through nine that we can come up with. We have a lot of time here to draw it up, and a lot of different tests we can use through Spring Training to figure out how it might come together."

Matheny noted that his thinking regarding early-season lineups has evolved during his tenure as manager. While he used to spend hours over the winter scripting possible scenarios, Matheny said he enters this camp interested in seeing how the batting order takes shape more organically.

"I don't want to come in here with preconceived ideas," Matheny said. "It's not fair to these guys in there. We tell them we have certain things we want to work on all winter … and for me to already have it in my mind that no matter what they do, this is what I want to see, I don't think that's fair to them."

The lineup won't remain fixed, either, regardless of how it's scribbled coming out of camp. Last year, the Cardinals used 135 different batting orders and only one more than three different times. Matt Carpenter and Matt Holliday had the most static spots in the order, with Carpenter having served as the team's primary leadoff hitter since 2013 and Holliday having been the team's No. 3 hitter for the last four seasons.

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But while he'll toy with all sorts of possibilities, Matheny said he isn't yet ready to seriously consider batting the pitcher eighth. He did, however, acknowledge that his position on that could change, should he be presented with enough compelling data. Any way in which the Cards can squeeze more production out of an offense that ranked 11th in the National League with 647 runs scored in 2015 would be welcome.

"I just haven't been convinced, for what we have, that that's something we can benefit from at this point," Matheny said. "But if we're throwing a lot of different things against the wall and nothing sticks, I'll tell you, we would try just about anything."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.