Weaver, Mejia optioned; Wong returns

The Cardinals made a handful of roster moves yesterday. First they traded outfielder Todd Cunningham to the Los Angeles Dodgers for cash considerations. Then they optioned right handed pitcher Luke Weaver and infielder Alex Mejia to Memphis. And finally they called up Kolten Wong from his rehab assignment. There will still be one move to be made since this leaves the Cardinals’ active roster at 24 players, but it’s expected that it will be left handed reliever Zach Duke.

Cunningham, 28, was signed to a minor league deal before the season and has hit .270/.401/.400 with 4 home runs in 76 games for Memphis this season. Likely left out in a roster squeeze in Memphis between prospects, this is a minor deal as Cunningham was unlikely to play for the big league club.

Luke Weaver pitched two scoreless appearances in St. Louis during his short cup of coffee as he will return to Memphis where he has a 1.93 ERA and 7-1 record over 11 starts.

Alex Mejia hit .214/.214/.429 with a home run in his brief time with the Cardinals. His playing time tailed off at the end when the Cardinals elected to try Matt Carpenter at second base to get Luke Voit in the lineup, but he will always have July 1st against the Nationals where Mejia single-handedly provided the offense in a 2-1 victory.

This brings Kolten Wong back to the big league roster and into an interesting lineup situation, which I discussed a little in a column today. Wong had a team best .301 batting average and .393 on base percentage when he hit the disabled list in mid-June.

The transactions leave the Cardinals with a 24 man roster and it’s expected that the final spot will go to left handed reliever Zach Duke. Duke was acquired last summer for Charlie Tilson and had a 1.93 ERA over 23.1 innings out of the Cardinals’ bullpen down the stretch. Unfortunately, Duke underwent Tommy John surgery after the season.

Duke has made five rehab appearances in the minors, posting five scoreless innings allowing 3 hits and a walk.

Fowler activated as Martinez is optioned

The St. Louis Cardinals announced today that they have activated outfielder Dexter Fowler from the 10 day disabled list today and optioned outfielder Jose Martinez to Memphis to make room for him on the active roster. Fowler is in tonight’s lineup against the New York Mets playing center field and batting third.

Fowler has missed 12 games while on the disabled list for a right heel spur. It disrupted his season just as he appeared to be getting on track. After a slow start that included a few hot streaks, Fowler had finally gotten sustained success, batting .286/.390/.600 with 6 home runs and 19 RBI in 21 games in June before his injury. He was the hottest hitter on the roster when he hit the disabled list.

Because of the play of Tommy Pham in center field while Fowler was out, there had been talk about Fowler playing left field upon his return from a foot injury.

Meanwhile Martinez is heading back to Memphis. Martinez is batting .280/.321/.464 with 5 home runs over 50 games this season as a bench player for the Cardinals. Of the four outfielders on the roster during Fowler’s absence, Martinez has been the best hitting of the four. He has hit .275/.320/.507 since June 1st and had started the past two games, going 3-for-8 with 3 runs scored.

Martinez had options remaining, meaning the club can send him back to Memphis without risk. Greg Garcia, who is hitting .172/.324/.224, does not have any options remaining and therefore stays for now. It creates an interesting roster situation for the Cardinals when Kolten Wong is ready to return potentially later this month.

 

Weaver returns as Mayers gets optioned

The St. Louis Cardinals have optioned right handed pitcher Mike Mayers to Memphis and recalled right handed pitcher Luke Weaver for the first time this season.

Mayers will return to Memphis having once again struggled to keep the opposing team off the scoreboard in the Majors. He allowed two earned runs over 4 innings of work between two appearances, allowing an earned run in each. Though it should be noted that in his most recent appearance, he made it through two scoreless innings before allowing a run in his third inning of work.

Weaver, a former first round pick of the Cardinals, is expected to make his 2017 big league debut out of the bullpen. He holds a 1.93 ERA and a 7-1 record in 11 starts for Memphis this season.

He had recently been named to the Pacific Coast League All Star team and was the PCL’s Pitcher of the Month in May.

During his debut with the Cardinals last year he made eight starts for the big league Cardinals with a 4.54 ERA but averaged just 4.5 innings per start. He made one relief appearance, allowing 5 earned runs over 0.2 innings of work.

I campaigned heavily for Weaver’s call up last year, because I liked that he was dominating at every level he hit. But I’ve been uncertain about his promotion this year since he demonstrated he still had developing to do. But he has improved and should likely be able to be a good piece for the St. Louis bullpen.

Cardinals option Diaz, call up Mejia

The St. Louis Cardinals have optioned shortstop Aledmys Diaz to Memphis and purchased the contract of infielder Alex Mejia. In a related move, they also moved right handed pitcher Alex Reyes to the 60 day disabled list.

After a strong offensive rookie season last year, Diaz has experienced a sophomore slump posting just a .260/.293/.396 batting line with 7 home runs and an 81 OPS+ in 71 games. Last season he was second on the Cardinals with a 134 OPS+.

He is also struggling on defense, having posted a -3 defensive runs saved at shortstop last season, but already has a -9 defensive runs saved there this season in about 400 fewer innings.

And with the strong showing of Paul DeJong, hitting .319/.327/.617 with 4 home runs since returning to the big leagues, to go along with a +1 defensive runs saved at shortstop, Diaz’s playing time was at risk. So Diaz will be the latest Cardinal to get a mid-season trip to the minors to get his head, and bat, straight.

The infielder taking his place will be Alex Mejia. A former fourth round pick of the Cardinals in 2012, he becomes the sixth member of that Cardinals’ draft class to reach the Majors. He has hit .253/.309/.355 with 3 home runs and 18 doubles in 74 games this season between Memphis and Springfield and was recently named a Texas League All Star at shortstop, where he has played 68 of his 74 games.

Grichuk and Voit up as Cardinals make flurry of moves

The St. Louis Cardinals had an active Sunday afternoon as they recalled outfielder Randal Grichuk and right handed pitcher Mike Mayers, as well as purchased the contract of first baseman Luke Voit from Memphis. The corresponding moves were Chad Huffman being optioned while outfielder Dexter Fowler and left handed pitcher Kevin Siegrist went to the disabled list.

Fowler suffered a quad injury on June 21st against the Phillies during “Star Wars Night” in Philadelphia and there was fear that it might result in him hitting the disabled list. He played in just one game since, but officially he is being placed on the DL for a right heel spur. The loss of Fowler is a blow to a stagnant offense as he has been one of the Cardinals’ hottest hitters over the past two weeks, batting .324/.405/.676 with 4 home runs.

Siegrist has been diagnosed with a cervical spine strain as the reason for his disabled list stint. He has struggled this season, posting a 4.28 ERA and 1.57 WHIP over 27.1 innings, but has had a mostly successful June. His last appearance was on Thursday where he allowed two unearned runs on a walk and a hit in an inning of work.

Huffman returns to the minors more because he happens to have options rather than being performance related. In 12 games for the Cardinals he has hit .286/.333/.429 with a triple, including 3-for-10 as a pinch hitter. He has a 100 OPS+ which is good for league average on a team that doesn’t have a ton of league average bench pieces.

Leading the return is Randal Grichuk, who is in the lineup and batting cleanup tonight. Grichuk was demoted earlier in the month in an effort to get his bat back on track. His homework was to get a better handle on the strike zone, but that doesn’t seem to have happened.

In the first two months of the season in the Majors he had a 29.8% strikeout rate and 6.6% walk rate. During his stint in the minors, he had a 29.9% strikeout rate and 4.5% walk rate. He did mash though, batting .270/.313/.603 with 6 home runs in 14 games with Memphis.

It’s possible that his return to the Majors has more to do with Fowler’s DL trip and needing another outfielder than anything else.

The Cardinals also purchased the contract of Luke Voit who is now set to make his MLB debut. Voit has hit .322/.406/.561 with 23 doubles and 12 home runs this season with Memphis.

The downside for Voit is that, like Matt Adams, he is a first baseman only. So to get him into the lineup on a regular basis means moving Matt Carpenter back across the diamond to third base. That’s something I’m okay with as I think he’s better than most make him out to be, but I wrote a week ago that they should call Voit up.

And finally, Mike Mayers will return to the Majors for a second chance after a disastrous cup of coffee last season. In his debut for the Cardinals, he started the game and didn’t make it through two innings before he had allowed nine runs. He made three relief appearances following that start, but only kept the opponents off the board in one of them.

He has, however, once again pitched well for Memphis, posting a 5-6 record with a 3.74 ERA. Over his last five starts, Mayers has a 0.87 ERA. It’s not entirely clear what role Mayers will have for the Cardinals. He was called up to replace a reliever, but there has been rumblings that the team is considering pulling Michael Wacha from the rotation, at least temporarily. Having Mayers up would give them that option.

Cardinals recall DeJong; Wong returns to DL

After exiting last night’s 7-6 loss against the Brewers with tightness in his right forearm, Kolten Wong was placed on the 10 day disabled list and the St. Louis Cardinals have recalled infielder Paul DeJong from Memphis.

Normally teams have to wait 10 days to recall players from the minors, except when the transaction involves the disabled list.

Wong is enjoying a career year with a batting line of .301/.393/.444 so far this season, including hitting .450 in the six games since he returned from his last disabled list stint a week ago.

That DL trip was for a left elbow injury and during a rehab appearance he had complained about discomfort in his right forearm, but it loosened up later in the day. It recurred last night and was deemed to be severe enough to make the move today.

DeJong was optioned on Tuesday and in two games in Memphis went 3-for-7 and homered in both games. He batted .244/.244/.390 in 12 games with the Cardinals during Wong’s previous trip to the disabled list.

He is in the lineup tonight at second base, batting 8th.

Tuivailala, Gonzales up; DeJong optioned; Peralta released

The St. Louis Cardinals completed the option of infielder Paul DeJong by calling up RHP Sam Tuivailala from Memphis to join the big league bullpen. LHP Marco Gonzales was also recalled to serve as the 26th man for today’s doubleheader and IF Jhonny Peralta has officially been given his release.

This will be Tuivailala’s third stint in the big leagues this season. He has a 3.27 ERA and 1.36 WHIP over 11 innings out of the St. Louis bullpen. Down in Memphis he holds a 1.65 ERA and 0.67 WHIP over 16 innings.

DeJong was optioned on Sunday, but the moves were not announced until the corresponding move was decided. DeJong hit .244/.244/.390 over 12 games while up and filling in for the injured Kolten Wong. Wong returned on Friday and DeJong has yet to play since, so he will be sent to Memphis where he can get playing time. After starting out well, DeJong struggled lately, batting just .154 over his final 7 games.

The move for Tuivailala returns to the Cardinals to 13 pitchers on their 25 man roster, which John Mozeliak told the UCB Bloggers this weekend is the preference of Mike Matheny and his coaching staff.

Gonzales is also called up to serve as the 26th man for today’s doubleheader and he is scheduled to start the night half of the doubleheader against the Milwaukee Brewers. This will be his first time in the Major Leagues since 2015. After missing all of last year with Tommy John, Gonzales has a 2.97 ERA in six minor league starts this season.

And finally, the Cardinals have officially given Peralta his unconditional release after designating him for assignment on Friday. The move was not unexpected, but the Cardinals likely placed him on waivers to see if they could avoid paying the remainder of Peralta’s $10 million salary, but after he went unclaimed went ahead and released him.

Cardinals activate Wong, DFA Peralta

During their press conference this afternoon, the Cardinals confirmed that they have activated second baseman Kolten Wong from the disabled list and designed infielder Jhonny Peralta for assignment.

Wong, 26, had been on the 10 day DL with a left elbow injury. He went 1-for-9 with a solo home run in his rehab stint with Peoria.

He returns to the Cardinals lineup batting .278/.378/.414 on the season. Since John Mozeliak’s intervention upon return from a sweep in the Bronx on April 19th, Wong is batting .311/.408/.462 with 9 doubles, 2 triples, and a home run in 31 games and outside of Tommy Pham may be the team’s best hitter.

On the other side of the move, Peralta was designated for assignment by the Cardinals in a move that was long overdue. I’ve argued that the organization should have let him go at the end of last season, either by trade or release, but had come around in recent days on his future with the Cardinals.

Mainly that, in limited playing time since his return from the disabled list, Peralta is batting .276/.323/.276. Since that same date, May 19th, Jedd Gyorko is batting .262/.292/.377 and Paul DeJong is hitting .244/.244/.390. And I ultimately refused to consider DeJong a worthwhile replacement when he has yet to be walked in his MLB career.

Now Peralta may not have his power back yet nor driven in a run yet this year, but he demonstrated he can still hit the ball when he plays, something he struggled with to start the season. And given enough opportunities, those RBI will come and so will that power.

I don’t believe he is done, as he hit .284/.337/.403 over the final two months of the season last year. He struggled early last season, but hand, wrist, and hip injuries are always difficult to work your way back from.

As a career .245/.302/.428 hitter, the odds are stacked against Gyorko to continue to perform at the level he has started the season at. It’s a big bet on him and Mozeliak has also tied himself to acquiring a third baseman if he loses on that bet.

I just hope it’s the right one because if Gyorko goes ice cold, it has the potential to look really bad.

Cardinals shake things up

Returning home on a seven game losing streak, the St. Louis Cardinals announced changes to the coaching staff today.

First, third base coach Chris Maloney will be reassigned in the organization, replacing him will be Mike Shildt. Shildt has most recently been the Quality Control Coach with the big league squad. He joined the Cardinals’ organization in 2004 as an area scout and part-time coach. He managed Single-A Johnson City from 2007 to 2011, winning back-to-back titles in 2010 and 2011, and Double-A Springfield from 2011 to 2016 before joining the big league coaching staff this season.

Second, assistant hitting coach Bill Mueller has been away from the club and will now formally be placed on a leave of absence. Replacing him will be Mark Budaska, who had been the hitting coach at Triple-A Memphis. He joined the Cardinals’ organization as a hitting coach at Memphis in 2008.

Third, Ron “Pop” Warner will also join the big league club as an additional infield coach, assisting Oliver Marmol in that role. Warner joined the Cardinals in 2000 throwing batting practice for the big league club before becoming a minor league coach in 2001. He got his first managerial job in 2004 and has managed at all levels of the minors in his career.

And fourth, in a roster move, the Cardinals have activated second baseman Kolten Wong from the disabled list and designed infielder Jhonny Peralta for assignment.

The moves may not represent the overhaul that many fans, including myself, have been clamoring for and hoping for when the press conference was announced, but it is a good first step.

“You cannot blow the whole thing up, but we had to do something different,” said Cardinals’ GM John Mozeliak as he began explaining the changes.

The first move, relieving Chris Maloney of his third base coaching duties, was one that I felt needed to be made over the winter. Maloney was a quick promotion into the role when Jose Oquendo was unable to return to the job, but through the course of the season was sending too many players to outs. He had not adjusted through the course of the season as I expected him to.

And those problems continued into this season, exemplified on the losing streak by his sending Paul DeJong to get easily thrown out twice at home.

I’m hopeful that that will help cure some of the base running woes and giving outs away at the plate, but the Cardinals still have a problem with the offense.

They struggle to score runs and while the Cardinals have found some success offensively, most notably in 2013 and then again last year, the Cardinals finished 24th in runs scored in 2014 and 2015 and currently stand 24th again this year as well. However, John Mabry still has his job.

Having Budaska up as an additional, and perhaps different, voice could be beneficial to the club’s hitters. As Mozeliak said, “I don’t look at him as the bat whisperer or something, but I look at as someone that has a way of doing this that might not necessarily be identical to how John Mabry might.”

Time will tell, but one can imagine that if this move does help the offense, do you need to consider replacing Mabry over the offseason?

Mozeliak discussed during the press conference that his time frame for judging these changes will be four to six weeks, and at that point if the Cardinals are still floundering, further changes may be made to the team’s coaching staff. Perhaps the hitting coach? Perhaps a change atop the top step of the dugout?

For Matheny, the moves give him yet another experienced voice in the clubhouse with the addition of Pop Warner to the staff. He now has Warner, Shildt, Marmol, and Bell who all have minor league managerial experience that he could lean on for advice if he wants it. Inexperience should no longer be an excuse for him.

I’ve argued that his message is having trouble getting through to the players, which is the primary reason I feel like the organization should move on, but he will need to get everyone on board and pulling the same direction to turn this season around.

The Cardinals play the Phillies this weekend to put this new coaching staff to it’s first test, but their real first test will come on Tuesday as they face off against the NL Central leading Milwaukee Brewers.

Regardless of whether or not I feel like the moves were enough, I do hope that these are the moves that help the Cardinals turn their season around. But if not, it sounds like Mozeliak knows what his next steps are, because his seat may be getting hot as well.

Sierra returns as Gyorko goes on paternity leave

The St. Louis Cardinals called up outfielder Magneuris Sierra today before their game against the Chicago Cubs. Third baseman Jedd Gyorko remained in St. Louis with his family after his wife had a baby earlier in the week. He is planning to return to the team on Sunday.

Sierra returns for his second cup of coffee with the club, having hit .367/.406/.367 over 7 games with the Cardinals in his first cup. When he went back down, he was promoted to Springfield where he has played 10 games and hit .263/.268/.368.

He joins the Cardinals with a 7 game hitting streak to open up his Major League career, which is tied for a franchise record. A hit on Friday will set the record and he is in the lineup, batting 8th and playing left field.

I don’t see a scenario where he sticks around after these two games, but it’s obvious that he made an impression while he was up before and gets another opportunity. I’m sure he doesn’t mind the nice bump in paycheck for a few days either.

As far as the Gyorkos, welcome to the world, Brooklyn!