STL@WSH: Jay's clutch catch preserves the Cards' lead

WASHINGTON -- In an effort to give Jon Jay an extended opportunity to work on his swing, manager Mike Matheny kept the center fielder out of the lineup for a second straight day. Jay is utilizing the time off to spend extra time in the batting cage, where he is specifically focusing on the timing of his complicated swing, which includes a lot more movement than most players.

"If you have that much movement, you're going to be a streaky hitter," Matheny said. "When he's hot, I think he's as hot as anybody. And when he's cold, he could be the [opposite]."

To this point it has been the latter. Though Jay left Spring Training feeling good about his timing, he has found no consistent rhythm this month. In 18 games entering play Wednesday, Jay had batted .197 with 17 strikeouts and just three walks. It's hardly the start Jay raced out to last season, when he was hitting .400 at the end of April.

"Obviously, I wish I could be doing better, but I'm not," Jay said on Wednesday. "But at the same time, I know that this is a long season and you go through this as a player. I know I'm going to come out of it.

"I feel like this year, I've had games where I've been consistent and games where I haven't been. It's just a combination of things. When things are going bad, it's bad. I haven't lost confidence in what kind of player I am and what I can bring to the table. This happens to everyone. It's not fun when you're dealing with it in the beginning of the season."

Jay compared this current stretch to the one he endured last summer, shortly after returning from a shoulder injury. As he worked to get his timing back, Jay hit .197 over a 21-game stretch from June 24-July 20. He struck out 16 times and walked seven times in 72 plate appearances.

The struggles weren't so noticeable on the stat sheet because his early-season success masked the dip in batting average. And in the end, Jay finished the season with a .305 season average.

"Jon, you forget how young he still is in his career," Matheny said. "He's still trying to figure out those keys, those cues he has to have to get him back to where he needs to be. When he gets it, it'll be fun to have him back at the top of the order."

Minors catcher Johnson's influence apparent

STL@WSH: Wainwright tosses 8 1/3 scoreless innings

WASHINGTON -- Rob Johnson may currently be out of sight, but the Triple-A catcher is hardly out of mind. In fact, as Adam Wainwright analyzed his dominant start on Tuesday, he credited Johnson for helping position him for such early-season success.

Signed as a Minor League free agent over the winter, Johnson was a participant in big league Spring Training until the final week of camp. It was at that point that he was sent out to Memphis, where the Cardinals looked forward to having the veteran backstop available to mentor several young pitching prospects.

But Johnson's influence is still being felt at the Major League level, too. Wainwright noted that Johnson was one of the first people this spring to recommend he try throwing more elevated four-seam fastballs. The 30-year-old Johnson, who played six seasons in the Mariners' system, relayed how much more effective Felix Hernandez's curveball became once he started complementing it with the high fastball. That's because both pitches are released from the same spot, making it tougher for a hitter to read which pitch is coming.

Johnson believed Wainwright's already-nasty curve would benefit in a similar way.

Wainwright estimated that he threw three or four four-seam fastballs in his career before this season. Now, he's incorporating the pitch with regularity. He used it on Tuesday to notch an inning-ending strikeout of Adam LaRoche with the bases loaded.

"That's something you could see early in spring -- that he was so intentional about building relationships with the pitchers," manager Mike Matheny said of Johnson. "The guys who are wired like that just can't help it; they congregate toward the pitchers and spend time with pitchers. They're talking pitching. They're talking philosophy. When you have a guy like that, he's an asset no matter where you put him."

Adams to see team doctors in St. Louis

CIN@STL: Adams' RBI double adds insurance to the lead

WASHINGTON -- Though Matt Adams has been showing signs of progressing, the Cardinals will get a better feel for the first baseman's right oblique injury on Thursday.

Adams is slated to visit with team doctors in St. Louis on the Cardinals' off-day. Manager Mike Matheny said that he did not believe a magnetic resonance imaging exam had been scheduled, but the club should have a better gauge on a timetable for recovery after Adams gets the additional medical opinion.

As it is now, the Cardinals are hopeful that Adams will be near full-go by Friday's series opener against Pittsburgh.

Adams was cleared to take swings on Wednesday, a day after he resumed throwing and fielding grounders. Adams has been nursing tightness in his right side since the first game of the series in Washington.

Worth noting

• The Cardinals are scheduled to face, in order, starters Jonathan Sanchez, A.J. Burnett and Jeff Locke during the team's upcoming series against Pittsburgh. Burnett took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against St. Louis last week.

• Daniel Descalso earned a spot start on Wednesday, as Matheny opted to give David Freese the day off. Descalso started at second, while Matt Carpenter shifted to third. Freese entered hitting just .211 in 12 games played this season.

• Cardinals Magazine, which has been published by the organization for the last 21 seasons, announced on Wednesday that it is about to become digital. While hard-copy magazines will still be printed, fans will also have the option to purchase a digital subscription to the magazine, which is published monthly during the season. Subscriptions cost $25 for a full year (seven issues) or $5 an issue. More information about subscription options can be found at cardinals.com/publications.

• As part of their Green Week events, the Cardinals will set up collection boxes for shoes (Friday-Saturday) and used cell phones (Friday-Sunday) at the Busch Stadium gates during their upcoming series. The club also has an ongoing donation drive for new or gently used baseball and softball equipment, which will be given to youth programs that are sponsored by Cardinals Care.