JUPITER, Fla. -- The five-man infield shift. It's mostly a desperate move, usually in the last inning, in an attempt to cut off the potential winning run from third base. At least that was the situation on Thursday at Roger Dean Stadium when Twins manager Paul Molitor employed the tactic in the team's 2-1 loss to the Cardinals.
With the Cards loading the bases and one out in the bottom of the ninth inning and the score tied at 1, Molitor, in addition to pulling in the infield, also pulled Danny Santana from right field to be the fifth infielder and plug up all holes behind reliever Drew Rucinski.
"We got to practice the five-man infield, that was kind of fun," Molitor said. "The game's on the line and you're trying to find a way to extend it."
Not only does it fill in all the holes in the infield, but it also can play with the batter's head a little bit.
"There's the mental side for the hitter," Molitor said. "See a lot of people crowd around you in the infield."
The move isn't the most drastic Molitor said he's seen on the diamond. He recalled Tom Trebelhorn, former Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs manager, one-up it.
"I saw a six-man infield one time, that's really taking a chance," Molitor said, who remembers seeing three infielders on each side of the diamond and the lone outfielder was a center fielder.
Santana went to the Twins bench to exchange gloves and took his position, which would normally be filled by the shortstop, leaving the Twins with only two outfielders. The move did extend the game, but only by one batter, and the "shift" didn't figure into it.
Rucinski got Cards DH Jedd Gyorko to pop out to shallow left field. And with two outs, the Twins defense returned to normal with Santana making his way back to right field.
Randal Grichuk then won it for St. Louis with an RBI single to right field.
Glenn Sattell is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Twins on Thursday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.