Cardinals oppose former teammate Holliday

After eight years in St. Louis, outfielder now in the Bronx

Cardinals oppose former teammate Holliday

NEW YORK -- "These are a little loose," Matt Holliday said, tugging at his pinstriped pants on Friday afternoon. To others, they simply looked unusual on a player who had made such an impact in red.

The Cardinals are visiting new Yankee Stadium for the first time this weekend, but not all was unfamiliar. Here, they found Holliday, who, nine games into his tenure with the Yankees, was welcoming old friends into his new town.

"It's strange that it is happening," said Holliday, who went 0-for-4 in the series opener, a 4-3 Yankees win. "First of all, Interleague usually doesn't feel like it starts this early, and for it to be the Cardinals, on our first homestand, was a strange, sort of ironic piece in looking at the schedule when I signed with the Yankees. But it's good to see the guys."

After spending eight seasons with the Cardinals, Holliday moved from one storied franchise to another this winter after the Cardinals informed him they would not exercise his option. Holliday said the "cachet" of playing for the Yankees lured him back to the American League under a one-year, $13 million contract.

Years earlier, Holliday had expressed interest in finishing his career with the Cardinals. Though the fit wasn't right for either side, he left St. Louis having provided the sort of production the organization had hoped when it signed him to a $120 million contract in 2010.

Holliday comes out to ovation

In 982 games with the Cardinals, Holliday slashed .293/.380/.494 and produced at least 20 homers, 30 doubles and 75 RBIs each season from 2010-14. His contributions were cut short when a pitch from Cubs reliever Mike Montgomery broke Holliday's thumb last August.

Seeking to script a send-off, the Cardinals brought Holliday back for a pair of at-bats and a cameo in left field during the team's final series in 2016. It offered Holliday -- and the home crowd -- a chance for a meaningful goodbye.

"I am very thankful for that last homestand," Holliday said. "It couldn't have really finished any better for me, as far as giving me a chance to thank the fans, teammates, staff, the people you spend all those hours with. The way it was handled was really meaningful to me."

However, the injury delayed Holliday's pursuit of 2,000 career hits. He ended 2016 five shy of that benchmark, which he then reached last week during the Yankees' first road trip.

"If you would have told me as a kid that I'd get 2,000 Major League hits, I would have been pretty excited about that," Holliday said. "At that time, I was hoping to get the chance to do that in St. Louis."

Holliday's 2,000th career hit

Holliday, who now wears No. 17, hit third and served as the designated hitter on Friday. And even though the Cardinals watched him make more than 4,000 plate appearances from 2009-16, he was still a focus during the team's pregame scouting meetings.

"It looks different," manager Mike Matheny said of Holliday in a new uniform. "But I watched him quite a bit on film, so it's starting to become a little more normal. But what a great run he had with us."

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.