The Cardinals’ learning phase with how best to utilize and bolster newcomer lefty Randy Choate’s presence in the bullpen did not end with spring training.

“I think we have a different dynamic with Randy,” manager Mike Matheny said a few hours before the start of the Cardinals’ second game of the season, against Arizona. “Randy is going to make it a little more challenging to make sure we’re putting guys in the right spots. … It’s a whole different thought process and mentality (with him).”

Choate, a true short-assignment specialist, is coming out of a spring training where his inconsistent results matched an inconsistent schedule, and the Cardinals eventually turned to him to help set his program. Matheny said the original plan was to “throw him into the mix” with the other relievers as they got their first innings of Grapefruit League play. When that didn’t get Choate the innings or results desired, Matheny turned to the lefty to help devise a schedule to get him ready for the regular season.

That included several days where Choate would pitch in minor-league games against a series of lefthanded hitters, sometimes throwing as many as 27 pitches. Those minor-league numbers are not reflected in his spring line of eight hits and three walks in 5 1/3 innings. He did not retire a batter after March 11 in a major-league game, but did so often in the minors.

“A guy like Randy,” Matheny said, “you’ve got to go in completely convinced – which we are – that spring is spring.”