Joe Thurston, Brian Barden More Than Fill Void at Third For Cardinals

Aren DowCorrespondent IApril 27, 2009

PHOENIX - APRIL 15:  Infielder Joe Thurston of the St. Louis Cardinals makes a diving attempt at a single hit by the Arizona Diamondbacks during the game at Chase Field April 15, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona. All Major League Baseball players are wearing #42 in honor of Jackie Robinson day.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

When Troy Glaus went down this winter with shoulder surgery, Cardinals fans started to count the days until his return.

There was much speculation as to who could start in absence of Glaus, and names such as Joe Mather and David Freese arose. Mather ended up being optioned to AAA, and Freese has only managed 19 at-bats and a couple of hits.

But the dynamic rookie duo of Joe Thurston and Brian Barden have excelled so far this season, leaving myself and other Cardinal fans worrying less and less about Glaus' return date.

Their offense has been overshadowed by Albert Pujols and the rest of the Cardinals hot start. However, a big reason St. Louis has scored more runs than any other National League team is because of the young tandem.

Thurston brings the speed and energy. I love the guy—it may be because of how he reminds me of David Eckstein when drawing walks. He never stops hustling. ESPN showed Carlos Beltran stepping on Molina's foot a thousand times, but it was Thurston who ran to the mound to throw Beltran out.

His speed has helped him on the bases as well. Thurston has five doubles, a triple, and a stolen base so far this year.

He has a few hiccups on defense this year, two errors in 33 chances, but he has made several spectacular plays as well. His aggressive defense includes playing in on the grass and has resulted in Thurston starting two double plays.

While Thurston brings speed, Barden brings power. Barden has three homers in just 31 at-bats, including a game-winner in Arizona. "Mr. Clutch" also had a game-winning pinch hit against the Pirates back on April 9th.

The two have a combined stat line of: .364 BA, 3 HR, 17 RBI, 16 R, 10 BB, 13 K.

Compare that with other third basemen:

Michael Young:  .280 BA, 5 HR, 11 RBI, 15 R, 7 BB, 18 K
Mike Lowell: .324 BA, 4 HR, 22 RBI, 9 R, 3 BB, 10 K
Evan Longoria: .358 BA, 5 HR, 16 RBI, 11 R, 7 BB, 14 K
Chipper Jones: .333 BA, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 10 R, 4 BB, 11 K
David Wright: .271 BA, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 13 R, 11 BB, 23 K

Joe Barden and Brian Thurston look like a monster. If I heard Dan McLaughlin right, the two have the two highest OBP for rookies. I wouldn't be surprised, these two rookies have even overshadowed all the hype and play by Colby Rasmus.

Another thing is the fact that, Barden plays second base. The ability to switch over to third has been impressive.

The experience and confidence the rookie duo has had so far will be extremely valuable once Glaus comes back. If Glaus struggles, or there are other injuries to the Cardinals lineup, these two will be able to fill the holes when needed.

And the best part of all of this? La Russa gets to play with matchups because Thurston bats left and Barden bats right.