If the St. Louis Cardinals need motivation beyond the pomp and circumstance of the home opener, they'll be getting it from one of their on-the-mend Hall of Famers.
Speedster Lou Brock, whose left leg was amputated just below the knee in the offseason, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Monday's sold-out game against the Milwaukee Brewers.
The 76-year-old Brock has been practicing wearing a new prosthesis and supported by braces. When he learned an infection related to diabetes necessitated the operation, the former base stealing record holder had been pointing to the home opener.
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Brock stole a National League-record 938 bases, including 118 in 1974, and was known as the Base Burglar. He also had 3,023 hits, becoming a star after a celebrated trade from the Cubs in 1964 for pitcher Ernie Broglio.
He was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes about 15 years ago and the procedure was done in late October.
The three-time defending NL Central champion Cardinals (3-3) have steadied themselves after a shaky start. After getting swept by the Pirates in the opening series, mustering one run in two of the losses, they're coming off a sweep of the rebuilding Braves.
St. Louis scored 31 runs in the series, marking the first time they've done that in a three-game stretch since Aug. 2-4, 2014.
"To just kind of play better is where we start," manager Mike Matheny said.
They'll get the usual pampered treatment before their first appearance at Busch Stadium, arriving on a fleet of trucks in a convoy around the warning track.
"We can't wait. It's been a couple of months for a lot of us," Matheny said. "Our guys usually try to make it down to spring training early, and that usually does make for a longer start of the season when you start on the road."
The Brewers (3-3) also are rebuilding but have been competitive since absorbing a 12-3 drubbing by the Giants in the opener. The bullpen contributed three scoreless innings to beat Houston on Sunday.
"Our patience at the plate, at least the quality of our at-bats, I'm really pleased with that," manager Craig Counsell said. "So that's probably the No. 1 thing that sticks out."
They've had to be on top of their game from the start with a challenging schedule of San Francisco and Houston at home, then the Cardinals and Pittsburgh on the road.
For the second straight season, the Brewers are the opponent for the home opener at Busch.
"No matter what, we're going to have a tough schedule in the division we're in -- one of the toughest divisions," said second baseman Scooter Gennett, off to a surprising start from a power standpoint with three homers. "The pitching that's in our division is pretty incredible."
The Cardinals have overcome slow starts by Randall Grichuk, who is 1 for 15 with eight strikeouts, and Matt Holliday, 4 for 21. Rookies Aledmys Diaz and Jeremy Hazelbaker have been big contributors early.
Closer Trevor Rosenthal and fellow relievers Seung Hwan Oh, Jonathan Broxton, Kevin Siegrist and Matt Bowman have not allowed an earned run in 14 1/3 innings.
The Cardinals begin the day with a pep rally at Ballpark Village more than four hours prior to the first pitch, and they'll send out Michael Wacha to oppose Taylor Jungmann.
Wacha gave up five runs -- four earned -- and 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings of Tuesday's 6-5, 11-inning road loss to the Pirates It was an uncharacteristically short outing after he lasted fewer than five twice in 30 starts last season.
"That's just the way the game goes sometimes," Wacha said.
The right-hander has also run into trouble against the Brewers, posting a 5.87 ERA in three starts and one relief appearance.
Jungmann gave up two runs -- one earned -- and three hits in five innings of Milwaukee's 4-3 win over San Francisco on Wednesday, but he also walked two and tossed 80 pitches. He struggled with his command as a rookie last year, too, throwing at least 80 pitches while going fewer than seven innings in 16 of 21 starts.
The Cardinals roughed up the right-hander the only time they faced him in 2015. Jungmann allowed six runs and six hits -- including a pair of homers -- while walking three in five innings of a 7-3 loss Sept. 24.