News: Cardinals call up Ryan Sherriff; end Trevor Rosenthal’s season

What happened. Today the Cardinals optioned RHP Josh Lucas to Memphis and purchased the contract of LHP Ryan Sherriff. To make room for Sherriff on the 40 man roster, RHP Trevor Rosenthal was moved to the 60 day disabled list.

The story. The Cardinals make yet another bullpen move, this time calling up Ryan Sherriff for the carousel of the last bullpen spot. The biggest news might be that the move to the 60 day DL means that the season is over for Trevor Rosenthal.

The numbers. Josh Lucas, who was called up on Saturday, made two appearances for the Cardinals and posted a 6.75 ERA over 4 innings of work. He pitched the 8th and 9th innings last night and allowed a two run home run to Yangervis Solarte in the 8th before pitching a 1-2-3 ninth. He will return to Memphis where he has a 3.34 ERA over 56.2 innings and has worked recently as their closer.

Ryan Sherriff, 27, was a 28th round pick of the Cardinals in 2011. He gained some attention to fans this spring when Adam Wainwright got a rental car for him after seeing him walking to the ballpark every day. This season in Memphis he has a 3.19 ERA in 53.2 innings pitched along with a dominant 0.99 WHIP. Left handed batters have hit .198/.225/.302 against him while right handed batters haven’t fared much better with a .215/.286/.271 line.

The impact. 10/10. The move alone is a 1/10 because I don’t think who the 8th guy in Mike Matheny‘s bullpen matters at all. However, the knowledge that the Cardinals have lost Trevor Rosenthal for the remainder of the season is big news.

After struggling a bit this summer, Rosenthal had gotten back on the horse in July and since July 4th (and not including the appearance where he got injured) he had a 0.52 ERA and 0.75 WHIP in 15 appearances. He had been 7-for-7 in save situations and had reclaimed his hold on the closer’s role.

But now Rosenthal is done for the year and likely out for the entirety of 2018 after it was confirmed that he will undergo UCL replacement surgery. With his absence for 2018 expected, that also means that the odds are good that he will be a prime non-tender candidate for the Cardinals in November.

Rosenthal is making $6.2 million this year and has one more season of arbitration eligibility before he can elect for free agency after the 2018 season, however, the current CBA restricts how much a team can reduce the salary of a player under team control. For Rosenthal, it means the minimum he could earn next season without being non-tendered is roughly $5 million.

Last year with Seth Maness in a similar situation, he made just $1.4 million and was expected to be back early in the season after UCL reconstruction. However, they still non-tendered him.

That isn’t to mean that the two sides couldn’t get creative on a two year deal that would pay Rosenthal in 2018 and give him a reduced rate in 2019 on an incentive laden deal, but I would imagine that the target would be something similar to what Greg Holland got from the Rockies last winter. After missing a year, Holland got a 1 year, $7 million deal with incentives and an option. Those incentives have already been worth an additional $6 million this year and the option has vested into a $15 million player option.

I expect that Rosenthal and his agent, Scott Boras, would prefer free agency and hope to find a team willing to go further than the Cardinals.

News: Cardinals option Luke Voit

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals optioned first baseman Luke Voit to Memphis to return their MLB roster to 25 players after keeping outfielder Stephen Piscotty.

The story. On Sunday, the Cardinals played in the Little League Classic in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and due to the extra travel, Major League Baseball allowed them to use a 26th man. That man was Stephen Piscotty. However today they need to return the roster to 25, which meant optioning someone and the club elected to keep Piscotty.

The numbers. Luke Voit was called up on June 25th and he hit .316/.366/.684 from his call up until the All Star Break while starting 9 of the team’s 15 games. With the return of Kolten Wong after the break, Voit’s playing time suffered and he made just 5 starts over the next 16 games and hit just .155.

However, Voit’s numbers were turning around in August. He has hit .304 in August including .375 in the two games he’s started. But he has started just 2 of 19 games in August.

Stephen Piscotty went 2-for-4 with a walk in his return to the big leagues yesterday.

The impact. 6/10. The biggest issue with the return of Piscotty, as I pointed out yesterday, is that it is into a crowded and productive big league outfield.

Voit had been hitting and Gyorko had not been and yet Carpenter was not moved across the diamond to accomodate that. That move would have been the most logical way to find Voit more playing time, but much like was the case for Matt Adams, there is no room for him in St. Louis as long as Carpenter is considered this team’s first baseman.

News: Stephen Piscotty added as 26th man

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals designated outfielder Stephen Piscotty as their 26th man for today’s Little League Classic.

The story. Originally it was reported that Magneuris Sierra was on his way to Williamsport to be the club’s 26th man, but after changing their mind at the last minute, it was Piscotty who was activated this morning. Both the Cardinals and the Pirates were given approval to use a 26th man for today’s game due to the additional travel.

The numbers. Stephen Piscotty, who has had a rough year, has hit well over the past several days in Memphis. In 8 games, he has hit .313/.421/.781 with 4 home runs. The biggest plus would seem to be the appearance of his power, something that has been down this season.

The impact. 6/10. The outfield is not exactly a position of need for the Cardinals at the moment, and even if Piscotty is back for good or whether it is just a one day trip, he is not an improvement on the available players and might actually muddy up the situation.

Just look at these numbers in the second half. Tommy Pham has hit .321/.419/.489 with a 142 wRC+. Randal Grichuk has hit .305/.336/.581 with a 135 wRC+. Dexter Fowler has hit .308/.443/.487 with a 146 wRC+. And when you throw Jose Martinez into the mix too, four of the Cardinals top-5 hitters of the second half are outfielders.

If Piscotty does stick around, and I think the odds are good that he does, who is sitting to give him playing time when you’ve already got four outfielders who are excelling at the plate?

News: Cardinals purchase Josh Lucas

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals purchased the contract of RHP Josh Lucas from Memphis and optioned RHP Mike Mayers. The move puts the Cardinals’ 40 man roster at 40 players. Lucas will wear #77.

The story. The I-55 express continues as the Cardinals send Mike Mayers back to Memphis and bring up Memphis’ closer Josh Lucas. Mayers had been called up yesterday to take the roster spot of Adam Wainwright after he went on the DL.

The numbers. Mike Mayers has struggled in his few appearances at the big league level and this time was no different. On Friday night he came in with a 10-3 lead and promptly surrendered five runs. That brief appearance inflated his ERA in the Major Leagues this season to 11.57. In 10 career innings in the Majors, Mayers has allowed 24 earned runs.

Josh Lucas, 26, was a 21st round pick of the Cardinals in the 2010 draft. He has a 3.45 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP over 56.2 innings in Memphis and has 14 saves. He has a 2.83 ERA and 1.06 WHIP over his past 10 appearances.

The impact. 1/10. The addition of Lucas to the bullpen now gives the Cardinals two former Redbirds closers in the mix with Sam Tuivailala also there. However, it doesn’t really matter who is in the bullpen or how well they pitch as long as Mike Matheny always defaults to his main guys in crunch time regardless of how much they’ve struggled.

News: Cardinals place Adam Wainwright on DL

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals placed RHP Adam Wainwright on the 10 day disabled list with a right elbow impingement and recalled RHP Mike Mayers from Triple-A  memphis.

The story. Adam Wainwright existed last night’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates early after allowing five runs on 55 pitches in three innings. While speaking with the media after the game, he mentioned that he couldn’t get his arm loose and had a pinching sensation in his elbow when he tried to throw. He compared it to discomfort he had felt and pitched through in 2014 before having surgery to remove bone spurs that winter.

The numbers. Wainwright has made 23 starts this season and has a career highs in ERA (5.12) and FIP (4.27) over his 121 innings. Regardless of the struggle, however, he has managed to win as he leads the team with 12 wins and the Cardinals are 15-8 in games where he takes the mound. That is the best record among Cardinals starting pitchers.

Mike Mayers, 26, will get his third trip to the Majors this season. While he has managed to pitch well in Memphis, he has struggled to find traction in the Majors and has allowed runs in each of his relief appearances. He has pitched four innings and allowed two earned runs on four hits and three walks.

The impact. 7/10. While I want to dismiss the loss of Wainwright for a couple weeks as a benefit to the team given his ERA, the fact that the Cardinals still win when he pitches gives me pause. He has pitched through this his last three starts and has had a noticeable decrease in velocity.

The severity of the injury is not yet known and he will return today to St. Louis for additional medical tests. While it’s pure conjecture at this point, you have to think there is a real possibility that he will be done for the season.

The club likely turns to Luke Weaver to make Wainwright’s next start. Weaver is the guy that is expected to take over Lance Lynn‘s rotation spot next season, so it will be a good cameo opportunity for him.

Five things about the Royals Series

The Cardinals swept the Kansas City Royals in the annual I-70 Series between the two cross state rivals. They now carry a six game winning streak into this weekend’s series against the Atlanta Braves. They are officially 1 game behind the Chicago Cubs for the division lead, though in a virtual tie as they both have 59 wins. I know most people like to look at the loss column, however, the way I see it, any team can lose a game, but you have to earn wins.

As I said earlier, the Braves and former Cardinal Matt Adams are coming to town. Fun fact, Adams makes eight players who started the 2017 season in the Cardinals’ organization who have hit 14 or more home runs this season. And yes, you could make a lineup of all of them without forcing someone to a position they’ve never played.

#RallyCat

Was there really any doubt that this is where the Royals series review was going to start? With the bases loaded in the bottom of the 6th, a kitten ran onto the field at Busch Stadium prompting a brief stoppage in play while field crew member Lucas Hackmann ran out to retrieve the cat. On the very next pitch Yadier Molina hit a grand slam to turn a 5-4 Royals lead into an 8-4 Cardinals lead.

After the game there was some dispute as to where the cat went. Some reported he had been picked up by a local animal shelter and some reported that someone had claimed him outside the stadium. It sounds like a woman claimed the Rally Cat and then it escaped her grasped. Which, while it may seem heartless, adds to the mythology that nobody really knows where the Rally Cat ended up.

Of course, when we needed a Rally Cat moment in Thursday night’s game, Jim “The Cat” Hayes apparently did not feel the need to respond to my Twitter pleas for him to run onto the field. Dexter Fowler hit a grand slam anyway. First time the team has hit go-ahead grand slams in back-to-back games in franchise history.

Speaking of Molina

Apparently a pissed off Molina is a good Molina. Yadier Molina is already hitting .322/.366/.540 with a 137 wRC+ since the All Star Break this season, getting off to the kind of second half he had last year for the Cardinals, but the numbers show he’s also performed well over some discussion about his playing time.

Carson Kelly was promoted by the Cardinals on July 21st and Molina has hit .344/.391/.594 with a 157 wRC+ (good for 26th best in all of baseball) since.

Then Mike Matheny implied on July 27th that Molina was tired and that’s why Kelly started that night. It prompted Molina to post the comment on his Instagram with the argument that he wasn’t tired and that he trains to play 174 games a season because that’s what it takes to become a champion (162 regular season games + 12 minimum postseason wins for a Wild Card team). It could take more than 174, but I digress.

Anyway, since that he’s hit .333/.388/.644 with a 167 wRC+ (good for 24th best in baseball).

Matheny ought to keep this in mind the next time Molina falls into a slump. Just suggest he’s tired.

Offense showing the plus of flexibility

Dexter Fowler has come off the disabled list smoking hot as he hit 6-for-13 with six walks, three doubles, a triple, and a home run in the series after returning to the team on Monday night. He returned batting sixth and then settled into fourth for the last two games of the series.

Jedd Gyorko who has struggled since the All Star Break, started twice in the series and came up with hits both times, including his 15th home run of the season. But otherwise we’ve been seeing a somewhat regular diet of Greg Garcia at third base lately. He pinch hit on Wednesday, but on Monday he had one of my favorite lines. 0-for-2 with 2 walks, an RBI, and a run scored. Since the break, Garcia is hitting .300/.432/.433.

Matheny is also riding the hot hand of Jose Martinez. Martinez went 5-for-16 in the series, starting all four games batting 4th, 2nd, and 6th. Since the break, he’s hitting .316/.449/.658 with 4 home runs.

One of my biggest complaints this season has been Matheny’s insistence on keeping struggling players in key spots of the lineup so that the Cardinals essentially have built in rally killers. Injuries and subpar play have now forced him to become more flexible and we’ve seen the payoff over the last week.

Lyons proving himself in the bullpen

I’ve spoken a few times about my love for Tyler Lyons as a reliever. Not just a lefty specialist reliever, but the ability to be the kind of reliever you can entrust as a regular setup guy. His numbers in the bullpen over the past few years for the Cardinals are strong and with some comfort in the job, could step those up. And he has emerged over the summer as one of Mike Matheny’s better relief options.

In 11 appearances since the All Star Break, Lyons has thrown 9 scoreless innings and allowed just two hits and a walk while striking out 14. While Trevor Rosenthal has gotten the attention for his recent dominance (0.68 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 41% K rate, 11 G) , Lyons (0.00 ERA, 0.33 WHIP, 47% K rate, 11 G) has been even more so.

Going back two months he has a 2.16 ERA and 1.04 WHIP over 25 innings out of the bullpen.

You get on base and you get on base! EVERYONE GETS ON BASE!!!

In the first two games of the series, every spot in the Cardinals’ batting order had reached base at least once. The streak reached three games, as they had done it in the series finale against the Reds as well. The streak was broken on Wednesday night as Paul DeJong went 0-for-5 in the 3rd spot while every other lineup spot got on base in the 8-5 win.

News: Cardinals option Stephen Piscotty

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals optioned outfielder Stephen Piscotty to Triple-A Memphis to make room for outfielder Dexter Fowler, who has been activated from the disabled list.

The story. Fowler has been on the disabled list since July 25th with a left forearm strain and had been slumping since the All Star Break.

Piscotty meanwhile has been struggling all year. Slow out of the gate and then compounded by his mother’s ALS diagnosis. It’s been a hard year personally and professionally for Piscotty so far, and now he’s been demoted.

The numbers. Fowler was hitting .200/.313/.225 in the 11 games between the start of the second half and his trip to the disabled list. He has had an up-and-down season so far in his first year with the Cardinals, hitting .241/.333/.452 over 81 games with 14 home runs. Initially signed to be the team’s leadoff hitter, Fowler has been moved out of that spot, but seems to have found a home batting third.

Stephen Piscotty is hitting .232/.340/.362 with 6 home runs and a 90 wRC+ so far this season. That wRC+ represnts a 25 point decline from the 115 wRC+ he put up last season and a 43 point decline from the 133 wRC+ he put up in 2015 after his debut.

After he spent some time away from the team following his mother’s diagnosis, he looked like he was getting his season pointed in the right direction, hitting .271/.385/.469 with a 120 wRC+ in June. But he would go cold in July, hitting just .171 before hitting the DL with a right groin strain. Since his return on August 1st, he hasn’t fared much better, hitting .176/.222/.235 in six games.

The impact. 6/10. The move is big for the Cardinals because they’ve had trouble keeping their young players pointed in the right direction at the plate this season. Three of their eight Opening Day players have now spent time in Memphis to get a chance to clear they head and get right at the plate.

Fowler is in the lineup and batting sixth tonight. If Fowler is hitting, the team could sure use his bat right about now.

Five things about the Reds Series

The Cardinals scored their first road series win since June and their first against a divisional opponent since April by taking two out of three from the Reds over the weekend. The Cardinals end the series 55-56 and 3.5 games out of the NL Central lead in third place. They’ve been 3.5 games back before, but haven’t been closer since June 13th when they finished the day 2.5 games behind.

Heading into the series against the Royals, the Cardinals have lost in their last five attempts to reach .500. So they’ll have to shake that bogeyman.

Wainwright just wins

Adam Wainwright struggled on Sunday as he allowed 4 hits and 5 walks over 3 innings of work as he earned the quick hook. But that didn’t stop the Cardinals who piled on some offense including a 9 run 4th innings.

The short outing left Wainwright’s season long ERA at 5.00, but the team is 13-9 in games started by him this season. That’s a .591 winning percentage, or in other terms, a 96 win pace.

The crazy part is that this is that Wainwright has just one season with a worse record. Over his career with the Cardinals, the team is 177-99 in games he starts, that’s a .641 win percentage, or in other terms, a 104 win pace. The team went 16-16 in his first season back from Tommy John surgery in 2012, but every other season except his first in the rotation has seen the team post a greater than .600 winning percentage in games he starts.

He has the best team record among Cardinals’ starting pitchers, and with the Cards winning behind Lance Lynn on Saturday, he joined Wainwright as the only Cardinals pitchers with a winning team record in games they start.

The hottest hitter on this team is…

Jose Martinez. Since the All Star Break, Martinez is hitting .318/.500/.773 with 3 home runs in 12 games, six of them starts. His latest feat coming with a grand slam while batting cleanup against the Reds on Sunday afternoon. But if there’s a player swinging a hot bat and pushing for more playing time right now, it’s Martinez.

Another player pushing for time is…

Greg Garcia. Since the All Star Break, Garcia is hitting .320/.433/.480 in 17 games, six of them starts. His emergence has come at a welcome time as Cardinals’ third baseman Jedd Gyorko has struggled since the calendar turned to July. Since the break Gyorko is hitting just .176/.241/.243 for the Cardinals.

It’s amazing what happens when you don’t abuse relievers

Before Sunday’s game, Mike Matheny spoke to the media about Trevor Rosenthal and how not pushing him and watching how they use him has really helped. It’s amazing what happens when you don’t run your relievers ragged. I wrote a couple years ago about the difference in the Cardinals’ relievers when they pitch with no rest versus a day or more of rest. Most relievers become no better than the rest of your bullpen on back-to-back days.

And it’s not like Matheny hasn’t had a deep bullpen to give these guys proper rest either.

Brett Cecil: Long Reliever

The last two times that Matheny chose to quick hook his starter, he has turned to Brett Cecil to bridge the gap. Most recently on Sunday, he came in in the fourth inning and pitched three shutout innings for the Cardinals. After a rough start, Cecil has rebounded quite nicely, posting a 2.23 ERA and 1.08 WHIP since May 19th, allowing the opponent to score in just four of his 32 appearances.

Cardinals activate Adam Wainwright

The St. Louis Cardinals announced today this morning that they have activated RHP Adam Wainwright from the disabled list for today’s game against the Cincinnati Reds. In a corresponding move, the Cardinals placed LHP Kevin Siegrist on the 10 day disabled list with left forearm tendinitis.

Wainwright, who went on the disabled list on June 25th for mid-back tightness, has been one of the Cardinals’ most troubled starters this season and is the only one of their primary five who has posted a below league average ERA+. Despite all of that, he leads the Cardinals with 11 wins and the team is 12-8 in games he starts.

Over his previous five starts, Wainwright is 4-0 with a 3.73 ERA. He missed two starts while on the disabled list.

He will make his second start of the season in Great American Ballpark against Cincinnati today. In that start on June 6th, he went 3.2 innings and allowed 9 earned runs.

This is Siegrist’s second stint on the disabled list this season, spending three and a half weeks in late June and early July on the DL for a cervical spine strain. This time it is a left forearm strain.

Siegrist has struggled this season with a 4.98 ERA in 39 appearances. Since he returned from his previous DL stint, he has a 5.14 ERA in 7 appearances, but all four runs he allowed came in the same appearance. He last pitched on Thursday, throwing a perfect 7th inning with two strikeouts.

Weaver optioned to Memphis

The Cardinals announced today that they have optioned RHP Luke Weaver to Memphis and recalled RHP Sam Tuivailala ahead of today’s game against the Cincinnati Reds.

Weaver heads back to Memphis following the best start of his brief MLB career. On Wednesday he allowed 2 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks while striking out 8 in 6.1 innings of work against the Milwaukee Brewers. He made two starts in St. Louis while covering for Adam Wainwright who is on the disabled list and expected to return this weekend in Cincinnati.

This will be Tuivailala’s fifth stint with the big league club this season as he is called up to support the bullpen. He has a 2.40 ERA over 20 appearances with St. Louis this season, allowing a 1.19 WHIP and striking out 8.1 per nine. During his last stint he posted a 0.90 ERA and 0.90 WHIP while striking out 10 in 10 innings of work. While in Memphis since, he threw five scoreless innings in four appearances.

I’d expect him to be returned to Memphis this weekend when the club activates Adam Wainwright in his return to the rotation.