Robinson helps Cardinals despite 2 minor setbacks

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

By R.B. Fallstrom ~ The Associated Press

ST. LOUIS -- Twice-demoted Kerry Robinson is giving the St. Louis Cardinals an unexpected lift.

Robinson has been a roster afterthought much of the season when he wasn't riding the Triple-A shuttle to Memphis. Another injury to outfielder J.D. Drew, Eli Marrero's slow comeback from ankle surgery and the second-half slump of rookie Bo Hart gave him an opening, and he's capitalized.

In Sunday's 3-0 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies, Robinson had three hits. He had a two-run pinch-hit single in Saturday's victory. On Friday, he had two more hits and stole second and third on consecutive pitches.

Heading into a key three-game series against the NL Central rival Cubs on Tuesday, he's 17-for-40 (.425) in August with two doubles, a triple and six RBIs. The Cardinals enter the series tied for first with the Astros in the division, and the Cubs are a half-game back.

"He's got that kind of igniter ability," manager Tony La Russa said. "He's had a huge month and everybody's talked about it.

"Even when he's made outs, he's stroked the ball nicely."

In his last 14 at-bats, Robinson has eight hits to raise his average to .273, and he's made the most of his speed.

"This is what I wanted to do, be a guy who can go out there and make things happen for the team," Robinson said. "Regardless of how you get it done, this makes it very enjoyable to be a part of it."

Robinson's window of opportunity could slam shut anytime given La Russa's choices. Besides Hart, who's still playing fairly regularly despite an average that has slid to .283, Fernando Vina started a rehab stint from a torn hamstring on Saturday that he expects to be brief.

Robinson is enjoying the ride while it lasts. Despite his speed, he batted leadoff on Sunday for only the second time all season and he has only 165 at-bats all year.

"It's not like it's a permanent role, so I'm just trying to get on base as much as I can," Robinson said. "When I'm up there I'm hitting in front of Albert (Pujols) and Jimmy (Edmonds) so I know I'm going to get some fastballs to hit and an opportunity to put the ball in play."

That's all the hometown product has ever wanted. But he's never been anything more than a bench guy in La Russa's eyes.

"It's really frustrating," Robinson said. "If I have a chance to start somewhere and I proved I couldn't do it and I was on the bench, I could swallow it a little bit better.

"But I've yet to have the opportunity to start in the big leagues. Hopefully I'll get my chance, if not here, somewhere."

It's been such an up-and-down year that he'd almost rather start with a team that has no chance at the postseason. Almost.

"Honestly, it's mixed emotions sometimes," Robinson said. "If I'm going to be on the bench, I'd rather be on the bench for a team that has a chance.

"But I do want to play all the time."

What this surge means, he hasn't a clue. Robinson may or may not figure into the team's long range plans.

"After this season, I don't know if I'll be back or what my role will be, and that's been the most frustrating thing," Robinson said. "When I went down to Memphis I wanted to do down there and prove I can bat leadoff."

Robinson has shown that the more he plays, the more comfortable and more productive he gets. Confident, too. He has four three-hit games.

"I think my swing's consistent enough where I can put the ball in play a good three times and maybe get on two or three times a game," Robinson said. "It's easier when you know the at-bats are coming."

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