MIAMI -- The Cardinals' starting lineup Sunday was missing some familiar faces, but manager Mike Matheny did not believe it was any less competitive.
Matheny gave catcher Yadier Molina, outfielder Matt Holliday and shortstop Pete Kozma the day off. The second-year manager had several reasons for sitting his three regulars and starting Tony Cruz, Matt Adams and Daniel Descalso.
"We try to recognize when guys need a day and also try to keep something going strong," Matheny said. "You saw what Danny was able to do yesterday, getting three hits, so we want to try to keep him going, especially when Koz is fighting himself a little bit. He could use a day mentally more so than physically."
The Cardinals have played 68 games this season and Kozma has played in 66 of them, while Molina and Holliday have appeared in 64 and 63, respectively. As the season nears the midway point, Matheny is trying to give some of his regulars a day off while getting some talented reserves some more playing time.
"It's the same with Holliday and whenever we can get a chance to give Yadi a day, he has to take it," Matheny said. "We have a different looking lineup, but it still lists out pretty good. I'm excited to get these guys out there to see what they can do."
Resting a player like Holliday, who is batting .269 with 10 homers and 38 RBIs, is a tough decision for any manager. That decision gets even more difficult when you look at the slugger's career numbers against Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco.
Holliday has hit .458 with two homers and six RBIs in 24 at-bats against Nolasco. But as tempting as Holliday's past success is, Matheny thought it was best to give a hot-hitting Adams the start.
"He's got good numbers against just about everybody," Matheny said of Holliday. "You always want to get him out there, but you look at how long it's been since he gets a day and you try to keep Matt Adams sharp. You'll have to take days like today to get him some rest. It's a day game and we're traveling home. All those things lead to try to get him a day, and he could end up making an impact late in the game."
Choate enjoys reunion with former teammates
MIAMI -- Every mound sits 60 feet away from home plate, but Cardinals reliever Randy Choate spent some time throwing from a familiar rubber this weekend.
Choate returned to Marlins Park to face his old team and spent some time catching up with old friends. The veteran left-hander was a member of the Marlins in 2011 and parts of '12 before being traded to the Dodgers.
"There are a lot of guys over there that I was real close to, especially the guys in the 'pen like [Mike] Dunn, [Ryan] Webb and [Steve] Cishek," Choate said. "It's always nice to come back where you had a good relationship with people."
Choate returned to Marlins Park for the second time since he left and he was joined by another ex-Marlin in Cardinals closer Edward Mujica. Choate, who signed with St. Louis in the offseason, said Mujica factored into his decision to sign with the club.
Choate knows when it is time to go to work, too, tossing a scoreless inning on Saturday. The well-traveled reliever, who has played for six different big league clubs, lowered his ERA to 2.63 and picked up his eighth hold of the season.
"My job doesn't really change, and I like to think that I am a pretty consistent guy," Choate said. "I try to fit in as best I can. There are a bunch of guys in here that make it easy to feel welcome."
After spending the early part of his career dealing with inconsistency, Choate has been a reliable reliever for much of the past five seasons. The 37-year-old credits his time with the Rays for getting more comfortable in the game.
"I always go back to my days with the Rays and [manager] Joe [Maddon] and [general manager] Andrew [Friedman] put me in a position to be successful at this level," Choate said. "I learned how to be successful there, and I think that really made the difference. No matter what team you go to, when you know that the managers have confidence in you and you know you've done it before, you get that confidence.
"Then it gets easier to go from place to place. Earlier in my career, I didn't feel as comfortable in the big leagues, but they helped me with that, and now I've been able to sustain it through different organizations."
Finale in Miami extra special for Jay on Father's Day
MIAMI -- Playing the Marlins in Miami is always special for Jon Jay, but this weekend's series was more than just a trip home for the Cardinals' outfielder.
A Miami native, Jay won a state championship at Christopher Columbus High School and was a standout at the University of Miami before being selected in the second round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft by the Cardinals. The local product is proud of his roots and enjoys returning to play in his hometown, but the opportunity to be in Miami on Father's Day meant a lot to Jay.
"It's nice, especially because I am here for Father's Day," Jay said. "It's great to have my family and friends around. That's always special."
The experience means a lot to Jay's father, Justo, too.
"It's a blessing that he's here and this series coincides with Father's Day," Justo said. "We don't always get an opportunity to go to St. Louis to see him, so having him here is special for me and our whole family."
The elder Jay has been at all three games this weekend and he is proud to see his son living his dream.
"Every father dreams of seeing their kids succeed," Justo said. "He's living his dream, but not just because he is playing baseball. He's being successful on the ball field, but he is successful as a human being and he was successful as a student. We definitely feel blessed, because we know how difficult it is to make it to the big leagues. It's one in a million to get there, and we don't take it for granted that he has made it here."
Justo, who was wearing his son's Miami Hurricanes jersey on Sunday, said he felt "true joy" when he saw Jon trot out to center field. His son then hit an RBI single in the third inning.
"We're blessed to be in this position to be here supporting him," Justo said. "Joy shared is twice the joy, so when he comes to Miami, we get to share this with all of our family and friends and the joy gets multiplied."
The Jays and their friends enjoy watching Jon play in person, and the Cardinals center fielder appreciates their support.
"It's surreal to know that I am able to wear a big league uniform," Jon said. "I love to come home and play in front of people that I grew up with in the city that raised me. It's an incredible feeling."
David Villavicencio is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.