During his search last season for the suggestion that would unlock his swing and free it from an average sinking too, too close to .200, Cardinals infielder Daniel Descalso turned to his closest friends and eventually to a radical solution.

He didn’t just talk to teammates David Freese, Jon Jay and Allen Craig, he watched them. He reviewed video of their at-bats and he studied them during batting practice: how Freese gets his front foot down early; how Jay, a fellow lefthanded hitter, created a direct path to the pitch with his hands; and how Craig generates opposite-field power. He borrowed from each, and late in the summer, his average still drooping, he went to his hitting coaches with an extreme request. Descalso wanted help starting over.

He had tried everything. Now he was willing to do anything.

“I had exhausted all of my internal options. I needed something,” Descalso said last week, sitting at his locker in the Cardinals’ spring training clubhouse. “I would have tried to hit righthanded if they had asked me to do that.”

What Descalso and hitting coaches Mark McGwire and John Mabry attempted to do was rebuild his swing on the job. He started 15 games in August and appeared in 12 others, all while spending hours each day in the cage adjusting his hands and developing a new, shorter swing that would open up more of the field to his line drives. Descalso called the process “the hardest thing I’ve done in my life.” The price was a .169 average in August.

The reward, according to close teammates, was October.

“He said had to take a step back to take three steps forward,” Jay said. “He didn’t get off to the start he wanted but he took the extra time to get himself where he wanted to be. If he doesn’t make those adjustments, first of all, we don’t make it to the playoffs and, second of all, we don’t get past the first round.”