CHICAGO -- A hot topic surrounding the Cardinals on the young season has been their relatively cool bats. A nine-run output Wednesday in Milwaukee and a five-run game against the Cubs on Friday has somewhat brightened the offensive outlook, and previously struggling veterans Allen Craig and Jhonny Peralta have broken out of their season-long slumps with hot streaks the past week.
Some veterans still have yet to turn it around. Peter Bourjos is mired in a 1-for-19 slump and hasn't been in the starting lineup the past six games, including Saturday. Second baseman Mark Ellis started the season on the disabled list and is 4-for-33 (.121) with no extra-base hits since making his 2014 debut on April 15.
As a result, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny has been riding a hot Jon Jay in center field while Bourjos sits, and the recently recalled Greg Garcia made his second start Saturday in place of Ellis.
"It's difficult for Ellis, it's difficult for [Daniel] Descalso moving to the outfield, it's difficult for Peter Bourjos -- I mean all these guys," Matheny said. "They want to play and they show up here -- and rightfully so -- frustrated that they're not in there. That's part of being a competitor. They don't want to show up here and not be able to put their piece in.
"So the message that we continue to give them is just, 'Just keep pushing. We need each of you guys to be at the top of your game in order for us to be as good as we can be, and you're going to get your opportunity, so just keep working.'"
The Cardinals have been hovering around .500 for the better part of the young season, forcing Matheny to play matchups and the hot hands. He also wants his young players to get consistent playing time after they're called up from the Minors, but cautioned that in the long run his veterans will do the heavy lifting this season.
"I want to go with the guys that we think right now, right this minute, this at-bat, are going to give us the best chance," Matheny said. "And in the longer term, we see that absolutely being a chance for Peter Bourjos, and he has to get opportunities and that's our responsibility to try to get those for him.
"We bring these guys up when they're feeling good and they've got a nice feel at the plate," Matheny continued. "You really want to give them a chance and right now with Mark still trying to find his stride and us offensively still trying to find ours -- we'll throw somebody in there who's had a nice feel at the plate, maybe he can spark something for us."
Back in 'pen, Lyons could start for Cards Tuesday
CHICAGO -- Tyler Lyons has shown his value this season through his versatility as a swingman of sorts. The left-hander made a pair of starts last week to help a starting rotation depleted by injuries, going six innings both times while allowing six earned runs over the two starts.
He has since shifted back to the bullpen, where he's surrendered one run in two outings covering three innings. The second outing came in Friday's 6-5 loss to the Cubs, in which he needed just nine pitches to toss a perfect seventh inning.
Mike Matheny said he is "leaning toward" slotting Lyons back in the rotation for a start on Tuesday in Atlanta, though Lyons' ability as a reliever was not lost on the Cardinals manager.
"We've talked about that in the past, especially when you have a lefty with above-average breaking stuff with the curveball and the slider, naturally that would lend itself to being able to be an impact piece of the bullpen," Matheny said. "But right now, we still like what he's doing as a starter, especially when you start looking at the depth that we need and having someone ready in case someone went down, just like we had here with Joe [Kelly]."
If and when Kelly (left hamstring strain) and Jaime Garcia (left shoulder inflammation) return to the rotation, Lyons might again move to the bullpen. As Matheny noted, Lyons' situation isn't unique for a young pitcher.
"I know Tyler, just like about half a dozen of these guys out there in the bullpen, all want to start," Matheny said. "So we'll keep trying to give them the best opportunity to do that, but figure out how they can help us in the meanwhile."
Garcia, Motte set for Double-A rehab stints
CHICAGO -- Jaime Garcia and Jason Motte have both joined the Springfield Cardinals (Double-A) for a rehab assignment this week, with Garcia scheduled to make his first rehab start Sunday afternoon.
Garcia, who threw two scoreless innings in an extended spring game on April 19, is recovering from left shoulder inflammation. Motte threw a scoreless inning in the same game and is continuing his rehab from Tommy John surgery.
The Cardinals pitching staff has performed well while missing Motte, Garcia and Joe Kelly, who is recovering from a left hamstring strain. St. Louis' 2.99 team ERA entering Saturday's game ranked third in the National League.
"I think any time we can get any of our guys back, you start looking at it, Joe Kelly's starting to play some more extended catch and feeling better with some different tests he's doing, and Jason and Jaime both are big parts of this club," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "We get them healthy, it just makes us better as a whole."
• Rookie outfielder Randal Grichuk got his first taste of Wrigley Field's brick outfield wall in the second inning of Friday's 6-5 loss to the Cubs. Grichuk ranged back on Welington Castillo's deep drive to the gap in right-center and nearly made the catch before crashing hard into the wall. Matheny said Grichuk is OK.
"Yeah, yeah, had to go fix the wall," Matheny said. "That one doesn't budge a whole lot but he's a little sore. He felt like he hit a wall but man, what an almost incredible play. Fortunate he didn't go down right there."
• Entering play Saturday, Peralta was tied for the Major League lead in home runs by a shortstop with seven. His six home runs in April set a Cardinals record by a shortstop.
• Three Cardinals hitters are ranked in the National League's top 10 in pitches seen per plate appearance, entering Saturday play: Matt Carpenter (8th- 4.22), Yadier Molina (9th- 4.21) and Peralta (10th- 4.20)
• Cardinals relievers struck out five of the 10 batters they faced Friday. Entering play Saturday, the bullpen has fanned 31 batters in 25 innings since April 24, good for a 11.16 K-per-nine rate over that span, which is second to only the Brewers' 12.21 rate.
Joe Popely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.