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Chris Duncan Plays First Base

Sunday’s game against the Dodgers saw a 2007 first for the Cardinals’ regular left-fielder – a brief stint at first base. With Scott Spiezio out, you knew this was coming. Duncan is said to be a natural first baseman, and apparently the only obvious option for the Cardinals when Pujols needs a bit of time off. But I gotta’ say, it concerns me just a bit. Not enough to say I’m worried about it, but just a bit, nonetheless. Dunc has worked so hard becoming an outfielder, the last thing he needs is to have to return to an infielder mentality. Don’t underestimate how difficult it is to switch from outfield to infield, especially at this level.

I think the main reason I’m ever so slightly concerned, however, is Duncan’s performance at the plate, lately – or lack thereof, I should say. The kid’s in a funk. He doesn’t look comfortable at all, he’s expanding his strike zone more than I’ve seen him do all year, and he’s psyching himself out so badly that he can’t help but swing at bad pitches again and again. His problem doesn’t seem to be mechanical, physical, or anything so easily cured. It appears to simply be one of those mental hang-ups we’ve all seen him deal with from time to time. The difference this time? Possibly a return to playing first base and coping with the mental strain of switching back and forth from infield to outfield in the public eye. We all know how painful it is when Dunc misjudges a fly ball…for him and for us.

Unfortunately, I don’t really see another option for the Cardinals. Ludwick looks like a first baseman, but I don’t remember any first base experience on his resume. I like him where he is – left field against lefties. Edmonds has played first a time or two for the Cardinals, and was decent. He could most likely handle the mental aspect much easier than anyone on the team. But, I can’t say I like the idea of spelling one aching veteran for another. One advantage to Edmonds at first for Pujols, however – it allows us to take advantage of all those outfield bats on our bench, same as Duncan. Moving an infielder to first means you substitute another infielder. We just don’t have an extra infield bat with power (except Ryan, but he’s going to get a lot of playing time with Kennedy out already). From an offensive perspective, moving an outfielder to first makes the most sense.

Now, all that said, we really only have to worry about it for the next couple weeks. September first will allow us to pull up one of the prospects in our minor league system to play first as needed, and with the Cubs and Brewers on our schedule this week, Albert isn’t going to be getting a lot of time off, anyway.

Let’s hope it all works out and the next problem we have to worry about is who the hell to leave off the post-season pitching roster!


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