Carpenter adjusting to life at second base
FEB 26, 2013 9:40a ET
Carpenter has concentrated so hard on learning to play second base this spring that playing his more normal spot of first base almost seemed too easy.
"It's funny," Carpenter said. "Going to my other positions now after playing second base is almost like a day off."
The Cardinals sent Carpenter home last winter with a homework assignment. They wanted the corner infielder and outfielder to learn to play second base, hoping to find a way to get his bat into the lineup on a more regular basis.
Carpenter took ground balls daily with his dad in the Houston area and arrived at spring training two weeks early for instruction from infield coach Jose Oquendo. And those watching have been impressed with his progress so far.
"He's looked good," said manager Mike Matheny. "He's made the plays. There's so many little things to learn that you can't even go through all of them as your practicing but the things you figure out on the fly and then kind of bring them up to him.
"He's making all the plays he's been asked to make. He's done a nice job."
Carpenter entered as a defensive replacement at second base in the spring opener on Saturday and fielded the only ground ball hit his way. He started at second base Sunday before moving to first base later in the game.
The former TCU product fielded a routine grounder at second base in the first inning before starting a nifty double play – his first of the spring – by ranging up the middle and making a flip to shortstop Ronny Cedeno at the bag. He then made a nice stop by going to his right and dropping to a knee to field a grounder and get the out at first.
"Definitely getting out there in the games you start to get more comfortable and get in the rhythm of things that have happened," Carpenter said. "Communicating with your shortstop, all those things. I definitely feel comfortable but there's still a lot of time left.
"There's some scenarios that haven't come up yet, I haven't actually turned a double play myself. I've fielded it and flipped one, but the comfort level is getting there and it will get better with the experience."
Carpenter went 2-for-4 at the plate with a double Monday and looked good in live batting practice sessions before games started. And as important as his defense will be, he knows the switch to second base won't work if he doesn't hit.
"That's probably the hardest thing, you have so much going on plus you want to focus on having good at-bats as well because that's the whole reason," Carpenter said. "Stealing a quote from Skip (Schumaker), but if I don't hit, none of this is worth it so I have to find a way to get it all done."
The Cardinals made a similar switch with Schumaker prior to the 2009 season but Schumaker had only played the outfield with the Cardinals. Carpenter's transition would seemingly be much easier since he has plenty of experience fielding ground balls at first and third base.
Carpenter is battling with a group that includes Dan Descalso for playing time at second base. General manager John Mozeliak even said prior to camp that the job was Descalso's to lose based on what he's done the past two seasons.
But as each day passes and each grounder or situation comes his way, Carpenter continues to get more and more comfortable at his new position. And he just may work his way into playing time at second base once the season starts April 1.
"It's just like anything, the more reps you get the more comfortable you'll get," Carpenter said. "I'm excited about getting the opportunity to keep playing and seeing those sorts of plays and seeing how I react to them.
"The last thing to come is when you go out there and you don't have to think about what you're doing, you just play. Each day is better. I think with more repetitions my comfort level will only increase."
And that could be real good news for the Cardinals.