Cardinals juggling outfielders as José Martínez likely to move from first base

PHOENIX — For the first time in 52 days, A.J. Pollock was back Monday where he belonged — in center field and hitting fourth in the Arizona lineup after missing time with a fractured left thumb.

St. Louis, meanwhile, seems to be in a juggling mode where its outfield is concerned. Jose Martinez, who has spent most of the first half at first base, did pregame work in right field for the second straight day, and that appears that is his position moving forward.

Pollock was hitless in four at-bats and scored a run, but the Cardinals took the first game of the series when Yadier Molina had two hits, including a homer and three RBIs in a 6-3 victory Monday.

Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo apologized to Molina behind the batting cage before the game for language he used in an argument the second inning of an April 8 game in St. Louis. Lovullo was ejected and Molina had to be restrained as players from both teams entered the field.

“Everything is in the past,” Molina said. “I have a bunch of respect for him and the organization in Arizona.”

Arizona right-hander Zack Greinke is to oppose St. Louis right-hander Jack Flaherty in the second game of the series Tuesday.

St. Louis broke a four-game losing streak and, with four runs in the first inning, had a lead for the first time since last Tuesday. The Diamondbacks have lost four in a row.

“It is frustrating,” Lovullo said. “I think we are a better team then we have showed these last four games. The season has its ups and downs and we should know that. We had a situation just like this before.”

Pollock, who has missed extended time because of injuries the last two seasons, will be monitored, Lovullo said.

“He wants to play every day. He makes that perfectly clear,” Lovullo said. “He does not like to come out of the lineup, and I love that. But I explained to him that we’re going to control his playing time and his innings until he’s one hundred percent removed from any more things popping up.”

Pollock was slashing .293/.346.503 with 11 homers and 33 RBIs in 40 games before his injury.

Martinez leads the Cardinals with 52 RBIs, but he also leads NL first basemen with seven errors. Rookie Tyler O’Neill started in right field Monday, with Matt Carpenter at first.

“One of those tough conversations,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said of Martinez’s position shift.

“He is so good offensively. And trying to figure out ways to maybe help our defense a little bit on the infield. We’re going to be working him as hard as we can to get him comfortable there and plug him into the equation. There are still going to be some opportunities at first.”

Martinez, slashing .299/.367/.496 with 13 and a team-high 52 RBIs, has played 72 games at first base this season after basically splitting time between first and the corner outfield spots in last season. Left field is now covered by free agent sign Marcell Ozuna.

“Tyler O’Neill is going to play,” Matheny said. “We know when he gets hot, he’s got the potential to do good things for us. Try to get a good look at him while he is in play mode. He’s been swinging it well. Just some different looks. Get some other guys engaged in the infield, too.”

Greinke, 8-5 with a 3.41 ERA, has 13 scoreless innings in his last two starts, victories at Pittsburgh and Miami as part of a three-win road trip. He has won three starts in a row and was 5-1 with a 2.95 ERA in six June starts, dropping his ERA to the lowest it has been since the second week of the season.

“He’s on a Zack Greinke run,” Lovullo said. “He had a real nice run from the middle of May last year until the end of the season, where he just grinds up innings. Fast innings, which equal wins.”

Greinke is 12-5 with a 3.42 ERA in 19 career appearances against the Cardinals. He has more victories against only team, Detroit (13). Greinke is 3-1 with a 2.40 ERA in eight home starts this season and is 16-2 at Chase Field the last two years.

Rookie Flaherty, 3-3 with a 2.92 ERA, has made quality starts in four of his 11 appearances and had a career-high 13 strikeouts while giving up only one hit in seven innings of a no-decision against Milwaukee on June 22. He gave up four runs in four innings in his last appear, a 5-1 loss to Cleveland.

Flaherty, 1-1 with a 2.20 ERA in five starts on the road, has never faced Arizona.