CINCINNATI -- Though the Cardinals entered the season without a permanent starting second baseman, the organization maintained that Tyler Greene would get ample opportunity to seize the spot.
He never did, leaving the Cardinals to institute a rotation at the position. That rotation is still ongoing, yet it is Greene who now finds himself on the outside looking in. And with recent starting opportunities rare, Greene is attempting to adjust to a bench role that has, to this point, also proved challenging.
Greene took his 11th at-bat as a pinch-hitter on Saturday and ended it with a popup that stranded the bases loaded. During Sunday's 4-2 loss, Green struck out as a pinch-hitter leading off the ninth against the Reds' Aroldis Chapman. Greene is still seeking his first hit as a pinch-hitter this season.
"It's a struggle for anybody, especially for someone who has never done it before," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of the role. "A lot of times the moment gets ahead of you and you lose what you try to accomplish. [The coaching staff is] continuing to try to work with him on pinch-hit philosophy and having a good idea when you go up there."
Familiarity with the role is being forced upon Greene, who has started just nine games since June 4. He has attempted to establish a routine -- one that includes in-game work in the batting cages and preparation for various pitching matchups -- when he's not in the starting lineup, though it's all still a work in progress.
"The unfortunate thing is that you have one shot," said Greene, who is 5-for-34 in his career as a pinch-hitter. "The toughest part of it is understanding the big picture -- that you might get one at-bat within several days. As a player, you're so used to getting three or four at-bats in a game to build off of. Instead of recognizing progress or adjustments by days, you're now doing it by the week. That's an adjustment, mentally, to get used to. That can easily bring you down or affect you mentally."
The reason for the scarcity of playing time available to Greene is two-fold. Not only has he not performed to a level that warrants additional at-bats, but the Cardinals also have two other second basemen -- Skip Schumaker and Daniel Descalso -- who have outperformed him.
Schumaker has been the best of the three offensively, entering Sunday with a .325 batting average in 47 games. Descalso has shown the most on defense, which, too, has been of value. On Sunday, for instance, Matheny plugged Descalso into the starting lineup given the high number of ground balls that were expected with starter Jake Westbrook on the mound.
For the first time since May 19, manager Mike Matheny wrote Lance Berkman's name into his starting lineup on Sunday. Berkman was put in the fifth spot in the batting order.
The veteran first baseman, who was on the disabled list for nearly two months after undergoing a right knee operation, is not expected to start either of the team's first two games in Milwaukee, which is the next leg of this two-city road trip. The Cardinals want to ensure that Berkman eases back into game action slowly.
Right fielder Carlos Beltran is also likely to sit out Monday's series opener. Matheny said he strongly considered resting Beltran on Sunday but opted not to dilute the lineup (which was already without Allen Craig) even further as the Cardinals tried to avoid being swept by the division-leading Reds.
Beltran, who did not get substantial time off last week because of his All-Star commitments, appears to be battling some fatigue. He entered play Sunday just 1-for-9 since the All-Star break.
The Cardinals kept Reds first baseman Joey Votto hitless in eight at-bats during the first two games of this series, extending Votto's hitless streak to 10 at-bats. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that leaves Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina as the only qualifying player in the Majors to not go more than eight at-bats without a hit this season. Molina had an 0-for-8 skid in June.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.