posted on May 16, 2011 17:19
It's fair to say Joe Pettini isn't calling the shots anymore.
In a move that could only be executed by Tony La Russa, a last-second lineup switch moved Albert Pujols across the diamond to third base, which in turn brought Lance Berkman from right field to first, sent Nick Punto from third to second and banished Allen Craig to right field.
The idea, La Russa said, was entirely Pujols'.
"Albert volunteered to play third. I wouldn't have really come forward unless I had a lot more reasons to do it," La Russa said. " (I was) a little concerned that Craig hadn't had very much work making pivots, so I don't feel great about that. Albert said, 'Hey, I can play third' and all of the sudden he goes there...and everybody's at a more natural position. But it pivot's on Albert's willingness.
"So he just said, 'Look, my arm feels great. I can play third.' And I've seen him play third. It puts everybody in a more natural spot."
The surgically repaired right elbow is the biggest concern in all this, but La Russa seemed unconcerned by the demands of playing across the diamond.
"He's been doing all the work all spring," La Russa said. "The elbow's in great shape."
The real story might not be finding somewhere Pujols can't play, but rather finding just one place where Craig can play. Though there's a movement outside the organization for Craig at third in David Freese's absence, there's an obvious hesitation within the organization to put him there regularly. The club has been trying to get him comfortable at second, but La Russa said it's still a work in progress.
"I'd just come off of being over there on the field with Allen and I know he can catch a ground ball and make plays, but to turn a double play if you're a second baseman is different," La Russa said. "You've got to get the footwork down and the anticipation...I would have done it but I wouldn't be comfortable with it. And now I don't have to be uncomfortable."
With Freese out, today's lineup represents arguably the most potent offensive combination the club can put on the field. Still, La Russa wouldn't say anything about the possibility of seeing Albert at third in the future.
"I think it's today's option," La Russa said. "That's as far as I go with it."
Nathan Grimm is the beat writer for the Daily Redbird. He updates daily (and sometimes more than once daily, if he's feeling particularly frisky), and he can be found on Twitter at @nate_grimm. Comments/Tweets encouraged.