St. Louis Cardinals possible starting right fielders Dexter Fowler and Harrison Bader.

(Brad Rempel & Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports)

Fowler Or Bader In RF: Matheny, Mozeliak Provide Insight Into Debate

"There's not a great answer that's going to appease everybody."

June 12, 2018 - 1:44 pm

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny will be battling through "one of the toughest parts of managing," as his boss called it, for the next few weeks. The decision is to either play a young, rising talent (Harrison Bader) or help the well-paid, proven player (Dexter Fowler) hit his way out of a slump. 

Before Monday's 5-2 victory over the San Diego Padres, Matheny and Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak were open in discussing a story line that is growing more and more evident as Fowler's batting average continues to drop. The 32-year-old right fielder is in the second year of a five-year $82.5 million deal and went 0-4 last night, brining his season average to .177. 

While on the bench sat Bader, a 24-year-old rookie who is possibly the best defensive outfielder for St. Louis and is crushing the ball. He's batting .315 in his last 15 games. 

After Fowler was named last night's starter, Matheny was asked about the decision-making process on that specific position: 

"There's not a great answer that's going to appease everybody, so what do we do? On a day like today, Dex has got some numbers on this guy, he'd been seeing some better at bats, had a rough day in Cincinnati, up until that point things were trending better. We'd love to have all these guys so hot that you can't see us not having them in the lineup. Trying to get them there is always the challenge."

Fowler was hitting .306 in his previous 11 games, before an 0-5 streak in two games in Cincinnati. Bader had two hits when he got a start in the final game of that series, Sunday. 

Matheny referenced the "balancing act" he – and those he consults – go through when making these types of decisions. Things like a player's long-term track record against recent numbers and weighting the necessity to win now against trying to give a struggling player more at bats, hoping he'll find a way out of a slump. 

And what about a player's salary?

"This isn't a unilateral decision, this is what we talk about as a group, including the front office," Matheny says. "This is where we're headed, how does everybody else see this. We take the collective throught and once again, always doing what we believe is best for the team as a whole." 

Mozeliak says he wouldn't let money muddy up an already difficult decision. 

"I think you really have to boil it down to, this is the big leagues and we're here to win baseball games," Mozeliak says. "This is not a developmental league and at some point you have to go with who you have the most faith in at the moment, or the hot hand and that's what we've been trying to do."