ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals returned home on Friday hoping to find their offense, which has been mostly absent in key situations for the past week.
The club concluded its 11-game road trip with just two wins in the final seven games. Combined, the Cardinals scored 13 runs over that span. It's been even longer -- 291 at-bats in total -- since anyone in the lineup went deep, and starter Adam Wainwright had more hits on the road swing than did Peter Bourjos, Mark Ellis, Kolten Wong or Daniel Descalso.
"Sloppy," was how manager Mike Matheny described the last week on Friday. General manager John Mozeliak, who was not on the road trip, also weighed in on the hitting woes Friday.
"You look at this team, they've all historically hit, and I believe they will," Mozeliak said. "I just don't think this offense has gotten on track. You're not going to hit with runners in scoring position like we did last year, but we're still capable of stringing multiple hits together and scoring runs. I also think when the weather warms up a little bit, you'll see more power."
While the Cardinals have been laboring to score runs, the organization's Triple-A offense has been mostly rolling. The unit is hitting .273/.348/.443 through Thursday and has been paced, in particular, by a quartet of outfielders -- Joey Butler, Stephen Piscotty, Randal Grichuk and Oscar Taveras.
So might the Cardinals dip down into that Triple-A depth for a jolt? Don't count on it.
The Cardinals continue to prioritize regular playing time for prospects Piscotty, Grichuk and Taveras. With no obvious opening in the St. Louis outfield at the moment, the organization is hesitant to bring up any of the three to sit on the bench.
Butler, 28, is a different case, as he has already reached the Majors and is past the development stage. He enters Friday leading the league in hitting (.431), ranked second in on-base percentage (.547) and ninth in slugging percentage (.667). The Cardinals could use added production from the bench -- 4-for-24 with one RBI this season -- but Mozeliak indicated that no roster changes are on the horizon.
"When you bring somebody to jumpstart your offense and you're talking three or four at-bats a week, I just don't know if that's your answer," Mozeliak said. "I think the way to look at it right now is there is a lot of talent on this team, and we believe in it."
Kelly progressing, but timeline of return uncertain
ST. LOUIS -- Though eligible to come off the disabled list as early as next Friday, Cardinals right-hander Joe Kelly is expected to miss at least a third start as he recovers from a left hamstring strain suffered while running to first base on April 16.
General manager John Mozeliak said on Friday that the Cardinals should "have a better evaluation of [Kelly's status] in a week, week and a half." Kelly has not yet resumed throwing off the mound or running.
"I think it's a little early for us to start throwing dates out there," Mozeliak added. "The good news is he's feeling better every day."
Kelly provided a similar assessment, noting that the swelling and bruising on his left leg has subsided and that he no longer feels discomfort when walking. He continues to throw on flat ground -- on Friday, it was from a distance of 150 feet -- and has resumed some lower-body exercises.
The Cardinals would not speculate when Kelly could be ready to get back onto a mound.
"It's getting better every day. It's progressing well," Kelly said. "I'm just going to keep going to the trainers and doing all my rehab stuff. I look forward to getting back."
Tyler Lyons will start in place of Kelly again on Saturday and would then line up to pitch Kelly's next turn through the rotation on May 2.
Motte's rehab assignment to wait til next month
ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals do not plan to send rehabbing right-hander Jason Motte out on a Minor League rehab assignment until next month, general manager John Mozeliak said, and until then will have him continue to make appearances in extended spring training games.
Mozeliak downplayed the urgency to have Motte, who is 11-plus months removed from Tommy John surgery, face increased competition by starting that rehab clock (maximum of 30 days) and sending him out to pitch for an affiliate. Motte is using regular appearances in extended spring training games to regain command and increase velocity.
Recently, the Cardinals have clocked Motte's fastball at 92-93 mph, with it occasionally touching 94 mph.
"Right now, just being in our extended program makes the most sense," Mozeliak said. "We can control the atmosphere and what needs to happen. I would anticipate that when the calendar turns to May, at some point we'll then contemplate a rehab assignment in a more robust environment. But at this point, just being able to pitch every couple days is probably in the best interest of him right now."
Cardinals all for new clarity with ball-transfer rule
ST. LOUIS -- Eight days after the Cardinals benefited from this month's stricter interpretation of the transfer play, Major League Baseball's Playing Rules Committee on Friday announced clarification as to how the rule should be applied.
The committee determined "that a legal catch has occurred … if the fielder had complete control over the ball in his glove, but drops the ball after intentionally opening his glove to make the transfer to his throwing hand." In other words, if a player drops the ball while taking it out of his glove, he is already ruled to have recorded the out.
During the first few weeks of the season, umpires, following instructions laid out to them with the implementation of expanded instant replay, were often calling a baserunner safe in such situations where the ball was lost on the transfer. The Cardinals saw this work in their favor in a game against Washington on April 17.
"It's always been one of those hazy [rules]," manager Mike Matheny said. "They were really putting a lot of pressure on the umpires. There were a few times we had a throw across the field, the first baseman catches it, and he's four steps into the dugout before he finally goes in and grabs the ball and then the umpire raises his hand [to signal out]. They were doing their job [in waiting for the transfer to be made], but it was a tough interpretation of the rule. Now, there's probably going to be some hazy situations, but I think it's a little more like what we were accustomed to."
This rule clarification also states that if a ball is dropped while a player is removing it to make a throw, the umpire will determine if the player secured it in his glove before the transfer. If so, the out was made.
"I think clarity on this is probably going to help everybody involved," general manager John Mozeliak said. "There was probably just too much subjectiveness prior to that and frustration just because of past history. So I think from a player standpoint, uniformed personnel standpoint, they're probably happy."
• Left-hander Jaime Garcia (left shoulder bursitis) threw 46 pitches in an extended Spring Training appearance on Thursday. He's scheduled to pitch again next Tuesday and will increase his pitch count to 60-65. General manager John Mozeliak said the Cardinals will determine Garcia's next step following that outing.
• Three days after twisting his left ankle, Taveras returned to Triple-A Memphis' lineup on Thursday and went 1-for-4. All but one of Taveras' starts this season have come in the corner outfield, though Memphis is expected to use Taveras more in center moving forward.
• Both Taveras and infielder Greg Garcia extended hitting streaks to nine games in Memphis' loss to Round Rock (Texas) on Thursday. Boone Whiting, winless on the season, picked up the loss after allowing five runs on eight hits in four innings.
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.