ST. LOUIS -- Something as simple as feeling comfortable on the mound has been largely elusive for reliever Fernando Salas this season. Bothered by a kidney stone for the first two months of the season, Salas returned from a brief demotion in June hopeful that after passing that kidney stone, his struggles were behind him. Yet he closed out the month by allowing six earned runs in 2 2/3 innings.
That led the right-hander to the video room, where, along with pitching coach Derek Lilliquist and bullpen coach Dyar Miller, he picked up on something. Where Salas was standing on the pitching rubber last season -- when he posted a 2.28 ERA in 68 appearances -- and where he has positioned himself this season are different.
The move was inadvertent, and Salas corrected it by sliding himself farther left on the rubber on Tuesday. The immediate results were encouraging, as Salas did not allow a hit in two scoreless innings.
"Being on the right side, those pitches were more in the middle, because [I've] had more trouble on that side of the plate," Salas said through an interpreter. "By moving to the left side, [I'm] able to hit the corners a little bit better. [I] definitely feel better now, and [I'm] going to keep working on it."
Though the Cardinals need a much larger sample before determining whether this small tweak can pay large dividends, it's at least reason for some optimism. Salas, who entered Wednesday with a 5.60 ERA, has not been nearly as reliable as he was a year ago, and his inconsistencies have contributed to the bullpen's instability thus far.
"He needed a little bit of confidence," manager Mike Matheny said. "He needed a little bit of positive results. Just the swings off him looked like they were having trouble picking up. That's what he's always had. He's always had deception and location."
Garcia throws for first time since June
ST. LOUIS -- Left-hander Jaime Garcia threw on Wednesday for the first time while dealing with impingement in his left shoulder. Garcia, who last pitched in a game on June 5, has been on the 15-day disabled list since June 6.
After playing catch at a distance of about 60 feet and making 40 throws, Garcia said that the shoulder felt great -- much better than it has over the past few weeks.
"It's probably early to get too excited or to talk a lot about what went on today. But I can already tell a big difference," Garcia said on Wednesday. "It's good. I'm really confident that the rehab I'm doing will make a difference. I'm just positive about this whole thing, and I'm working hard, doing everything I can."
"He threw the ball well, looked smooth, fluid," said manager Mike Matheny, who was on hand for the throwing session. "He was going nice and easy, but I think it was a good first step."
Garcia will rest on Thursday and throw again on Friday. From there it will be a gradual progression, bumping up his velocity while he prepares to throw from flat ground. He anticipates being back in the rotation by the first or second week of August.
Garcia is 3-4 with a 4.48 ERA in 11 starts this season. He won 13 games in both 2010 and 2011.
Independence Day celebrated at Busch Stadium
ST. LOUIS -- As usual, there was plenty of red in the stands at Busch Stadium on Wednesday, but there was also a little bit more blue and white, too.
The celebration of the Fourth of July included a special rendition of the Star Spangled Banner and a hot dog-eating contest to rival that of Coney Island.
"I think it certainly is something fans get excited for," manager Mike Matheny said before the game. "They know it's America's pastime, and a day to celebrate our freedom and a lot of things that we take for granted. For me there's no better way to celebrate than watching a game of baseball. We always have great turnouts, and it's a good day at the baseball park."
4-Digit Chord, an a capella group composed of servicemen and -women and civilians employed by the Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, sang the national anthem.
The Cardinals also unveiled the "Giant Slugger" hot dog, the largest hot dog in Busch Stadium history. The one-pound, two-foot all-beef dog comes fully loaded with two cups of chili, nacho cheese, grilled onions and jalapenos. Its arrival was christened with the Giant Slugger Hot Dog eating contest.
The winner, Daniel Thompson, finished the Giant Slugger in seven minutes and 48 seconds.
On the field, the Cardinals wore special hats with a camouflage St. Louis logo to honor the U.S. Armed Forces.
Lance Berkman, who is eyeing a return from the disabled list on July 13, spent time on the Busch Stadium infield early Wednesday afternoon taking grounders at first base. Berkman, recovering from surgery on his right knee, resumed various baseball activities on Monday, when he returned to St. Louis.
Triple-A first baseman Matt Adams was scheduled to visit a doctor on Wednesday to have his ailing right elbow examined. Adams was placed on the seven-day DL, retroactive to Sunday, though the club doesn't anticipate this injury being anything serious.
Trevor Rosenthal, ranked by MLB.com as the Cardinals' seventh-best prospect, will miss his next start due to a strained lower back. Farm director John Vuch said that the organization does not anticipate Rosenthal having to miss more than just that one Double-A start. Rosenthal is 7-6 with a 2.97 ERA in 16 starts.
Mark Hamilton enjoyed a two-hit, four-RBI game on Tuesday for Triple-A Memphis, which lost an 11-10 game to Oklahoma City. Outfielder Adron Chambers went 4-for-6 with two RBIs.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. Mike Still is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.