The 66 games Daniel Descalso started at second base for the 2012 Cardinals were the fewest by an everday St. Louis player at the position in nearly 10 years.
Only twice in the past 50 years has an everyday Cardinals second baseman started fewer games during a 162-game season than Descalso did in 2012. Julian Javier, with 64, had the most starts of any St. Louis second baseman in 1965. Bo Hart led Cardinals second basemen in starts in 2003, with 65.
The difference between 2012 and the other two years is that Cardinals manager Mike Matheny purposely rotated the second base starting assignments among several players this year. In 1965 and 2003, injuries to starters were the reasons the everyday second basemen received so few starts.
Matheny used five players as starting second basemen in 2012: Descalso (66 starts), Skip Schumaker (51), Tyler Greene (40), Ryan Jackson (3) and Matt Carpenter (2).
Schumaker had made the most starts at second base for St. Louis in each of the previous three seasons (2009-2011) for manager Tony La Russa. Matheny viewed Descalso as the superior fielder. Descalso also made 20 starts at shortstop and eight starts at third base in 2012. Schumaker, converted from outfielder to second baseman by La Russa, started 14 games in center field and three in left field for the 2012 Cardinals.
In 1965, Javier was knocked out of the starting lineup for more than two months when he was hit on the right hand by a pitch from the Pirates’ Vern Law on June 17. Two bones in the hand were broken, according to The Sporting News. Boxscore
From June 18 through Aug. 23, Javier didn’t make a start for St. Louis. His main replacements were utility players Phil Gagliano and Jerry Buchek.
“I’ll play anywhere just to play,” Gagliano said to The Sporting News. “I’d even catch.”
Said manager Red Schoendienst: “Gagliano and Buchek both know what they’re doing up there with the bat. They’re going with the pitch against left-handers and getting hits.”
Javier returned to the starting lineup on Aug. 24 and doubled against Bill Faul of the Cubs in his first at-bat. Boxscore
Gagliano hit .240 for the 1965 Cardinals. Buchek batted .247. For the season, Javier started 64 games at second base, followed by Gagliano (48 starts), Buchek (31) and Dal Maxvill (19).
In 2003, Fernando Vina was in his fourth season as the Cardinals’ starting second baseman until he ruptured a tendon in his right leg while running to first base on a bunt in a game against the Pirates on May 25. Boxscore Vina underwent surgery and didn’t return to the lineup until Aug. 30.
Soon after Vina was sidelined, the Cardinals called up rookie Bo Hart from Class AAA Memphis. Though he wasn’t considered an elite prospect, Hart immediately became a favorite of Cardinals fans, dazzling them with his hustle and hitting.
On June 21, 2003, Hart had three hits, giving him seven in 12-at-bats in his first three Cardinals games. When he came to the plate in the eighth inning, the crowd of 44,473 at Busch Stadium II gave him a standing ovation. After Hart struck out against the Royals’ Ryan Bukvich, they gave him another standing ovation. Boxscore
“That last at-bat was probably one of the best moments of my life,” Hart said to the Associated Press. “Even though I struck out, it didn’t really matter. I’m just loving every moment of it.”
On June 25, Hart hit a home run against the Reds’ Paul Wilson and went 3-for-5, improving his batting average to .500 (15-for-30) in six games. Hart had multiple hits in five of those games. “It’s unexplainable,” he said to the Associated Press. Boxscore
The magic continued throughout the summer. On Aug. 2, Hart hit a slider for a grand slam against the Mets’ Jae Weong Seo. “You’re not going to think he’s going to hit a slider to straightaway center field,” Mets catcher Jason Phillips said to the New York Daily News. “… It wasn’t on our scouting report.” Boxscore
Vina reclaimed the starting position for the final month of the season. “It’s been a lot of hard work and a lot of rehab,” Vina said to MLB.com. “Thank God I’m in one piece.”
Hart started 65 games at second base for the 2003 Cardinals, followed by Vina (58 starts), Miguel Cairo (33) and Wilson Delgado (6). Hart batted .277 and Vina .251.