Matt Carpenter wasn't exactly thrilled with the idea initially when the St. Louis Cardinals told him they were moving him from third base to second in 2013.
The Cardinals made the move to clear up a logjam at third. Rather than have to split at-bats between Carpenter and David Freese, St. Louis was searching for a way to get them both in the lineup.
It worked out better than Carpenter or the Cardinals could have imagined. The leadoff man led the National League with 199 hits, smacked 55 doubles and made the All-Star team. He was just as much of a find in the field, where his soft hands made it appear he'd been playing second for years.
The transition, however, was harder than it looked.
"It was a challenge," Carpenter said. "Obviously, I had never played the middle infield, never played second base in my life. To be able to convert from corner infield, corner outfield guy to middle infield was definitely a challenge. It's something we put a lot of work in."
Carpenter credited infield instructor Jose Oquendo for helping him along the way, while manager Mike Matheny praised Carpenter's work ethic for making the switch appear effortless.
"He trusted what we were trying to do," Matheny said. "He believed in himself and believed that he could help us out, and he has done a terrific job for us."
GRIFFIN'S OUTLOOK: It might not matter this season, but Oakland right-hander A.J. Griffin is working his way back from elbow tendinitis that kept him off the roster for the division series against Detroit.
"He played a little catch the other day and feels pretty good," manager Bob Melvin said before Game 3 on Monday. "Probably not 100 percent, but I think he's going to play catch again today. I'm not sure — I don't think it's off a mound yet, but he's felt better than he has postgame his last three starts."
Griffin went 14-10 during the regular season. He could still be an option during the postseason depending on how far the Athletics advance.
"He would have to throw at least one full bullpen," Melvin said. "He would have to be comfortable and throw a pretty strenuous bullpen where he's using his pitches, to see how his arm responds the next day."
BETTING ON THE MAN: The numbers screamed for Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle to pinch-hit for slugger Pedro Alvarez in Game 3 of the NL division series Sunday.
The Cardinals brought in overpowering left-handed reliever Kevin Siegrist with runners on first and second with one out in a tie game. The left-handed-hitting Alvarez came in batting just .180 against lefties this season and was 0 for 5 against Siegrist. The Pirates had right-handed Gaby Sanchez — who hit .333 against lefties — in the dugout ready to go.
Instead, Hurdle opted to keep Alvarez in the game. The result? A sharp RBI single to right field that scored pinch-runner Josh Harrison and helped the Pirates to a 5-3 win.
Hurdle insisted he wasn't trying to buck convention but instead stick with the ethos that he's managed by since the day he took over in December 2010.
"Belief," Hurdle said. "It's part of his growth. (It's about) giving young players opportunities to do meaningful things in meaningful situations."
The decision to stick with Alvarez wasn't the only time Hurdle went against the book in Game 3. He inserted Jordy Mercer for Clint Barmes at shortstop in the seventh inning even though Mercer committed a couple of critical errors late in the season. Mercer ended up making a pair of sensational plays, including a pirouette on a grounder up the middle by Jon Jay that was turned into an out.
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