Position switch pays off

Friday, September 11, 2009

La Russa said Schumaker has done a nice job at second base

ST. LOUIS -- Second base is feeling more like home to Skip Schumaker.

The 29-year-old hadn't played the infield since college. Then second baseman Adam Kennedy was released by the St. Louis Cardinals a week before spring training.

"I think Skip has gotten to the point where we expect him to make plays," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "One of the things he's always had is a willingness to work, and toughness. And he really has a cannon for an arm, so for the off-balance throw he can get a lot more on it than most second basemen."

Even before the July acquisition of Matt Holliday from Oakland, there was little room for Schumaker in a crowded outfield that included Ryan Ludwick, Colby Rasmus, Rick Ankiel and Chris Duncan. Schumaker's shift to the infield has allowed La Russa to keep his leadoff hitter in the lineup.

Schumaker is having a successful season at the plate, batting .294 with 32 doubles. On defense, he's relying on advice from third base coach Jose Oquendo, a former major league middle infielder.

"I'm still learning, still looking at Oquendo almost every pitch to see if he's thinking about something that maybe I don't see," Schumaker said. "As soon as it becomes more of a habit, then I'll feel like maybe I'm a second baseman completely."

Schumaker played a small role on the Cardinals in 2006, when they won the World Series, appearing in 28 games. The team missed the playoffs the following two years, but leads the second-place Chicago Cubs by 11 1/2 games in the NL Central with 3 1/2 weeks to play.

"It's a thrill for me to have a chance to play in the postseason," Schumaker said. "I can't wait and, hopefully, it's going to come through."

La Russa has quit trying to rid Schumaker of his lone bad habit: sliding headfirst at first on close plays.

The way Schumaker is playing, there's no use quibbling.

"I'm concentrating on what he's doing right," La Russa said.

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