JUPITER, Fla. (AP) -Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said Tuesday his pitchers would bat eighth in spring training games in which the designated hitter is not used.
La Russa then plans to continue the practice once the regular season starts.
``We'll hit the pitcher eighth,'' he said. ``We're going to have a second leadoff as the ninth-place hitter.''
La Russa inserted a position player in the ninth spot behind the pitcher for the final 56 games last season. The Cardinals were 28-28 in those games after starting the season 50-56.
The move may have sparked the offense, which boosted its production from 4.3 runs per game to 4.6.
The Cardinals jumped back into the NL Central race after the move, going from seven games behind to one game out. A late season collapse dropped the Cardinals out of the race.
``Tony's not going to make a decision that's not proven to work,'' pitcher Adam Wainwright said. ``Whether people are doing it or not I don't think he really cares. It's just the numbers that he's concerned with. If the numbers say it works then he's going to do it.''
La Russa believes the move gives the Cardinals more opportunities to score runs. Having a position hitter in the nine hole makes No. 3 hitter Albert Pujols more like a cleanup hitter without dropping him in the lineup, which could possibly sacrifice an at-bat.
``When we got hot, a lot of it was our ninth-place hitter setting the table,'' La Russa said about last season.
The move also seemed to help the pitchers, who hit .210 with a .248 on-base percentage batting eighth opposed to a .191 average and .217 on-base percentage batting ninth. The position players who were dropped to the bottom of the lineup enjoyed having the leadoff hitter behind them as opposed to the pitcher.
``When you bat ninth and the pitcher is eighth and you lead off the inning or you get up with one out you have that feeling we can get a rally going,'' said infielder Aaron Miles, who batted ninth in 20 games.
Infielder Brendan Ryan was ninth in the order a team-high 28 times. He was the leadoff hitter for Triple-A Memphis before being called up.
``I actually liked it,'' Ryan said. ``The thing was, as soon as he started doing it we started winning games and I'm scoring all these runs in front of these guys who are knocking me in.''
The lone downside: The ridicule the players take for hitting behind the pitcher.
But it's all in fun.
``Some of the (Braves) got on me, (Brian) McCann and some of the other guys,'' Ryan said. ``You're going to hear that. Hitting after the pitcher you know it comes with the territory. I didn't really care.''

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