ST. LOUIS — Rick Ankiel’s first four games as a major league outfielder is a feel-good story for everybody but Juan Encarnacion.
The St. Louis Cardinals’ right fielder has been the odd man out since Ankiel’s recall on Thursday. He was not in the lineup the first three games, with Ankiel manning his position, and manager Tony La Russa scratched him because of a knee injury about an hour before Sunday’s game, even though Encarnacion said he could have played.
Encarnacion also is unhappy after reading in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that La Russa criticized him, saying “There are parts of the game he can play better,” and in discovering his playing time has been cut by looking at the lineup card instead of in a discussion with the manager.
Encarnacion is happy for Ankiel, the former pitcher who was 6-for-16 with three homers and 16 RBIs and got his fourth straight start against left-handed starter Mark Hendrickson of the Dodgers while the right-handed hitting Encarnacion watched from the bench. But he contends that La Russa should have aired his concerns in private.
“I’ve heard he’s talked about it in the paper, the issue,” Encarnacion said. “But whatever’s inside should stay inside.”
Encarnacion’s playing style has been described as effortless or worse. In his last start on Wednesday he glided to a ball on a single that spun away from him and rolled to the wall for a two-base error.
“You’re trying to do the best you can the whole time, and you see things like that, it makes you mad,” Encarnacion said. “It hurt my feelings when your manager says you don’t give the effort.”
Encarnacion, who is scheduled to undergo an MRI exam on his right knee today, is in the second year of a three-year, $15 million free agent deal. He’s batting .290 with seven home runs and 43 RBIs in 69 games, down from last year when he hit .278 with 19 homers and 79 RBIs.
The lower production is mitigated by offseason wrist surgery that delayed his debut until mid-May.
La Russa raised Encarnacion’s name in discussions near the trade deadline last month when the Cardinals appeared to be out of the NL Central race and perhaps ready to jettison players.
Encarnacion also spent the last three games of the World Series on the bench after the wrist injury hampered his swing and limited him to a .186 average in the postseason, a downward trend after he batted only .225 the final month of the season.
He’s seeking a clarification of his role.
“I don’t know what’s going on,” Encarnacion said. “At some point, I just want to know exactly what’s going on. I’m used to playing.”
Bad knee sidelines Kennedy
Cardinals second baseman Adam Kennedy will be sidelined two to six weeks with torn cartilage in his right knee, the latest blow for the defending World Series champions.
Infielder Brendan Ryan was recalled from Triple-A Memphis. He and Aaron Miles likely will share playing time at second while Kennedy, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list, is out.
Miles started at second on Sunday against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Ryan started at third base and batted ninth on a scheduled day off for Scott Rolen.
“I’m guessing he’ll be back in September, but I don’t know,” manager Tony La Russa said of Kennedy.
Kennedy said the knee had been bothering him the last few days and an MRI exam on Sunday confirmed the injury. The team will schedule surgery in the next several days.
“I knew it wasn’t good,” Kennedy said. “When you play sports long enough you know what hurts and what’s injured.”
He has struggled all year after signing a free-agent contract with the Cardinals, batting .219 with three homers and 18 RBIs in 87 games.
But Kennedy had been playing better lately.
Kennedy had played in five straight games for the first time since the All-Star break, and somewhere in that stretch he hurt the knee. He’s unsure how it happened.
“The last couple of days it’s been rough getting going out there,” he said.
Ryan, 25, has batted .339 in 25 games with two homers and five RBIs with the Cardinals. This is his fourth stint with the team this season.