PITTSBURGH -- Batterymates for the first time in Double-A Springfield back in 2009, Tony Cruz and Lance Lynn have dusted off that longstanding rapport and found a fit working together again this season.
On Saturday, Cruz made his fifth start of the season, four of which have come as a tag-team with Lynn. Manager Mike Matheny cited the need to give Yadier Molina a day off as he fights the frustration of an 0-for-15 skid and an illness that has been circulating through the clubhouse, but there is also a clear camaraderie established between Lynn and Cruz that factors into the timing of the catching switch.
"I feel real comfortable with him, and I'd like to think he feels real comfortable with me back there," Cruz said. "The more you get to work with a guy, the more comfortable you become with him in certain situations. Yeah, definitely working with him here has helped a lot, too."
The results have been representative of that positive fit as well. In Lynn's three previous starts (consecutive) throwing to Cruz, he allowed 12 hits and three earned runs in 19 1/3 innings. The Cardinals won two of those games.
"We've known each other since we were 21 years old," Lynn said. "Tony is a good catcher. Tony has been learning from Yadi for a couple years now. He makes it easy, transition-wise, from Yadi to him. It's very easy because of how much he picks Yadi's brain and because he's known me since I was 21."
Matheny will not necessarily be intentional in scheduling Molina's off-days for when Lynn is on the mound, but he did not discount the fact that Lynn's success working with Cruz in April could roll over and provide some positive mental momentum. In Cruz's first start of the season (April 14), Lynn threw seven shutout innings.
"I think it's probably a comfort level," Matheny said. "Lance goes out and has a good game, and that's the ultimate compliment for a catcher, when someone has that kind of trust in you. Make no mistake about it, I think most every pitcher would love to have Yadi behind the plate to throw to. But to have a little success and to be able to give Yadi a day, I think, has been extremely important for us as a club. When Lance went out and had a good game with Tony the first time, you could see, for whatever reason, there was a comfort there. We've tried to ride then when we can."
The Cardinals are 3-1 in the games Cruz has started. As a bonus, he has also hit safely in three of those four starts.
Motte's next step: Pitching on back-to-back days
PITTSBURGH -- After throwing 16 pitches (12 for strikes) while facing four batters in an appearance with Double-A Springfield on Friday, Jason Motte took the mound again on Saturday night, and he pitched a scoreless inning with a walk. It's the first time during his rehab assignment that he pitched on back-to-back days.
Motte, whose Saturday outing was his fourth with Springfield, relayed via text that everything has "been going good so far." He added that the expectation is that he will join the Triple-A Memphis club after this next appearance to wrap up his rehab from Tommy John surgery.
Motte passed the one-year anniversary of his surgery this week. If all continues to go well with his rehab, he will be back with the Cardinals before the end of the month.
Matheny says challenging calls a team effort
PITTSBURGH -- As the Cardinals continue to figure out the nuances of Major League Baseball's expanded instant replay system, manager Mike Matheny has taken the opportunity to use a few plays from this road trip as teaching points.
Most notably, Matheny continues to impress upon his players and coaches that he needs their help in determining when to consider using a challenge. Watching from the dugout, Matheny often lacks an ideal vantage point on close plays, catches or fair/foul calls. Although he has a video coordinator reviewing plays in the clubhouse, he still needs those on the field to help initiate the process.
Without Matheny providing a delay by walking to the umpire, the video coordinator may not have the necessary time to alert the dugout to a missed call.
"I trust my eyes, but I need their help," Matheny said. "I need the help of the coaching staff that has a better angle. I need the help of the players that can see so we know which plays we need to contest. They're going to keep hearing it until they get it figured out."
Matheny had a conversation with Matt Adams on Friday, during which he encouraged his first baseman to be more demonstrative when there's a play that he feels could be overturned. That conversation was initiated by a close pickoff play this week at first base that did not elicit a reaction from Adams.
The recommendation was obviously heeded, as Adams did react to a tag play at first in Saturday's game, and that reaction drew Matheny out of the dugout to give his video coordinator time to review the play.
Ultimately, Matheny opted not to challenge.
Matheny cited Michael Wacha's foul ball down the right-field line on Friday as another instance in which it would have been helpful to have been relayed information about how close the ball was to hitting the chalk.
"From the reaction that guys on the field had, [I thought] it wasn't even close," Matheny said. "I can't see it all from where we are. It appeared that it was feet foul, though it was only inches."
Matheny does not believe the Cardinals have missed an opportunity this season to challenge a call that would have been overturned.
"But I'm afraid that might happen," he added. "And we've seen it happen a couple times -- I believe it happened in Atlanta [when the umpires overturned a call that took away a bases-loaded opportunity for St. Louis] -- where there is a play that shouldn't have been overturned that was. In a big situation, it's close, we're going to take a shot. I don't believe it's an infallible system yet, and if there's a chance for us to take advantage of something in a big spot, we've got to try it, at least."
• Wacha, who took a ball off his left shin on Friday, went through his normal workout routine on Saturday without issue. The liner did leave a bruise.
• In explaining his decision to move Allen Craig back into the cleanup spot for just the second time since April 23, Matheny cited Matt Adams' lack of success against Pirates starter Edinson Volquez (1-for-8) and the opportunity to sustain some momentum from Craig's two-hit night on Friday.
"We've never made much of a secret about it -- we believe that's where he belongs," Matheny said of Craig batting fourth.
• Several players will sport pink for Sunday's game as part of Major League Baseball's Mother's Day initiative to build awareness of breast cancer. The specially designed pink items will include bats, cleats, batting gloves and wristbands.
• Shortstop Jhonny Peralta entered Saturday having hit safely in all seven games played during this road trip. Over that stretch he is 11-for-28 with two home runs.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.