Cardinals option Grichuk to minors, activate Martinez

The St. Louis Cardinals optioned outfielder Randal Grichuk to Single-A Palm Beach in a corresponding move to activating Jose Martinez off the disabled list. Martinez played three games in a rehab stint in Palm Beach, hitting .333 with a home run and 4 RBI.

Martinez was hitting .313/.353/.458 with a home run and 4 RBI over 20 games for the Cardinals before the groin injury sent him to the disabled list.

Grichuk has been mired in a slump, batting .205/.244/.356 with just one home run over the team’s past 20 games, so perhaps a change was coming, especially with Martinez back and Tommy Pham hitting well.

The move is notable because the club isn’t just demoting Grichuk a level to Memphis like they did last summer, but all the way down to Class A Palm Beach. Cardinals’ GM John Mozeliak mentioned it was to let him work with another hitting coach, get him into a lower stress environment and that they have already seen him hit in Memphis so they wanted to try something new.

Which is great, but the trip to Memphis worked for him last year.

After the June demotion, Grichuk returned in July to hit .269/.300/.544 with 16 home runs over the team’s final 80 games.

But with this demotion, I can’t help but wonder where his head is at right now. In the past six months he went from starting center fielder to the team signing his replacement and moving him to left field. Then giving the other outfielder a six year extension on a team with a glut of quality outfield talent on it’s way. And then he found himself in an early season time share in left field with a career first baseman. If he wasn’t already spinning, now he’ll be playing in A ball, a level he hasn’t seen since 2012.

The move is particularly frustrating as Stephen Piscotty is away from the team for personal reasons and rather than make a roster move to play with a full 25 man roster, the team is willingly playing short, while already playing with a short squad of position players. They could have promoted Martinez, moved Piscotty to the Inactive list and waited until Piscotty was ready to return to send Grichuk out.

Cardinals put Wong on DL, call up DeJong

The St. Louis Cardinals announced before today’s game that they have placed second baseman Kolten Wong on the 10-day disabled list with a left elbow strain, retroactive to May 27th. In his place, the team has called up infielder Paul DeJong from Memphis. He will be assigned #11.

Wong, who had been lifted from the game against the Giants on May 20th with the injury, had been limited by it over the past games before it flared up again before the game yesterday. Wong is hitting .278/.378/.414 this season, including .299/.392/.373 in May.  With Jedd Gyorko solidifying his hold on the third base job, Wong has been left to control second base and has responded.

DeJong, 23, was drafted in the 4th round by the Cardinals in the 2015 draft out of Illinois State University. He hit .260/.324/.460 with 22 home runs in a full season last year in Springfield and has hit .294/.331/.541 with 11 home runs over 46 games so far this season in Memphis.

Drafted as a third baseman, he has played primarily shortstop this season at Memphis while also getting limited reps at second base.

Their desire to add positional flexibility for him around the infield clearly indicated to me that the organization was looking for a way to get him onto the Major League roster at some point this season if Jhonny Peralta was not able to carve out a role with the club.

This might not be the exact scenario envisioned, but if DeJong can establish that he belongs, he could give the club a difficult decision to make when Wong is ready to come back.

 

Cardinals DFA Socolovich, call up Brebbia

The St. Louis Cardinals announced today that they have purchased the contract of RHP John Brebbia and have added him to the active roster. To make room, the organization has designed Miguel Socolovich for assignment.

Socolovich, 30, joined the Cardinals’ organization in 2015 as a minor league free agent. He would pitch well enough to earn a call up in May. He would spend three cups of coffee with the big league club that year, posting a 1.82 ERA over 28 appearances. He started 2016 in the minors, but was called up in July and then back up again in August posting a 2.00 ERA over appearances.

With no options, Socolovich made the Cardinals’ bullpen this season on Opening Day and has struggled this season. He has an 8.68 ERA over 18.2 innings of work this season, capped off by allowing 4 earned runs over a third of an inning last night in Denver.

In his place the Cardinals add Brebbia to the roster.

Brebbia is the main figure in one of my favorite baseball transaction stories. In 2015 he pitched in the independent American Association and posted a 0.98 ERA with 19 saves in 51 appearances. He was considered to be the #2 independent leagues free agent at that point and signed a minor league deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks in September. Less than two months later, the Cardinals selected him in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft.

His first season in St. Louis, a 5.03 ERA in 43 appearances between Springfield and Memphis, was forgettable, but so far this season he has posted a 1.69 ERA in 26.2 innings over 15 appearances. He’s had a 0.79 WHIP.

The scouting report on him says he’s got a mid-90s fastball and used a slider for his outpitch. He has a good changeup and recently added a sinker into the mix.

Socolovich’s future is a little less certain. The DFA gives them a roster spot immediately while they decide what to do with him. They could trade him, put him on waivers, or outright him. I expect that they will place him on waivers and, if he clears, he’ll be optioned to Memphis and retain his spot on the 40 man roster.

In other news, Jonathan Broxton is still here.

Cardinals trade Matt Adams to Braves for prospect

Everyone knew Stephen Piscotty was going to be activated on Saturday in time for the game, after all, he was in the lineup and batting second. What was unknown was what the corresponding roster move was going to be. Would they send out their extra pitcher or make room some other way. Some other way was the answer as the Cardinals announced that they have traded 1B Matt Adams and cash to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for minor league infielder Juan Yepez.

Adams, 28, is hitting .292/.340/.396 with 1 home run this season over 31 games. The former 23rd round pick hit .271/.315/.453 with 56 home runs in 486 career games in Cardinal red.

He will join former teammate Jaime Garcia with the Braves, a team that became interested in adding a first baseman after learning that they would be without Freddie Freeman for three months after he broke his left wrist.

Since the Cardinals committed to Matt Carpenter at first base this winter, it didn’t really make much sense for the organization to bring Adams back for 2017, except in the hopes of trading him. The team even tried him in left field for a bit early in the season, but that didn’t pan out as hoped. There was nowhere in St. Louis for him to carve out an opportunity.

He will get that opportunity in Atlanta, where he will get the chance to play regularly over the next three months until Freeman returns. Freeman is a player I’ve often compared Adams to. Early in his career, Freeman struggled against left handed pitching as well, but the Braves kept playing him and after a couple seasons he adapted and has become one of the league’s best and most consistent hitters.

Adams never got that opportunity to play through those struggles and adapt in St. Louis, though he showed a hint of being able to hit left handed pitching last season, as he hit .283/.300/.522 off them.

The trouble for the Cardinals that I see with this deal is the loss of a power bat off the bench. This is likely a case of an opportunity coming up to trade Adams somewhere where he would get the chance to play that he wouldn’t have had in St. Louis. It’s not the first time that the organization has “done right” by a player in Adams’ shoes. But I can’t shake the feeling that they just chose Jhonny Peralta over Adams. And I don’t think that’s the right decision.

As far as the Cardinals’ return, Yepez, 19, was signed by the Braves out of Venezuela in 2014 for a little over a $1 million signing bonus. In 121 career minor league games, he has hit .281/.355/.407 with 6 home runs in the Braves organization. At 6’1″ and 200 pounds he is still considered a very raw prospect.

In 2015, after hitting .299/.364/.458 as a 17 year old in rookie leagues, Yepez was considered to possibly be one of the highest ceiling bats in the Braves’ organization. The scouting reports cite quick hands and great contact skills. There are questions as to his plate approach, but he is still young. He walked just 7.6% of the time compared to a 23.0% strikeout rate.

His defense is also a question. Originally signed as a third baseman, scouts have hinted at a move to first base, where he has played the majority of his minor league games, since he was signed. The Braves moved him back to third base this season.

In discussing Yepez, Mozeliak termed him as a “lottery ticket” type prospect. He was a young player that was thought highly of and has stalled a bit recently. The Cardinals are expected to assign him to Peoria.

Cardinals release RHP Mitch Harris

RHP Mitch Harris announced this morning that he has been released by the St. Louis Cardinals with a post on Instagram. The team confirmed it later in the day.

Today was my last day as a St. Louis Cardinal. I couldn’t be more proud of the time I’ve spent with this organization. They believed in my when others didn’t. They provided me the opportunity to fulfill my dream and to that I say thank you! Today marks the end of my time with the Cardinals but the beginning to another journey. I don’t know what God’s plan is but I know I’m excited for it. Thank you Cardinal Nation for your unending support! Thank you to the coaches for pushing me to become the pitcher they knew I could be. Thank you most of all to my teammates. I’ll cherish all our time together and most importantly our friendships. It was an honor to wear the “birds on the bat” … Thank you!

Mitch
Aka LT

Harris, 31, was originally drafted by the Cardinals in the 13th round of the 2008 draft out of the United States Naval Academy. Due to his military service commitment and unable to get an early release from his service (as NFL players had been able to do), it would be until 2013 before Harris would see a professional mound for his minor league debut. Yet the Cardinals held onto him.

In 2015, the Cardinals called Harris up and he would make his Major League debut in Milwaukee, allowing two hits, two walks, and striking out one in 1.1 innings of work. When he did that, he became the first Naval Academy graduate to pitch in the Major Leagues since 1921. Harris would spend three cups of coffee with the the Cardinals that year, posting a 3.67 ERA and 1.59 WHIP over 27 innings of work.

He would arrive to camp in 2016 as one of the players in the running for a bullpen spot, but arm soreness would derail his spring. In June he opted to have “UCL reconstruction,” a procedure pioneered by Dr. George Paletta and also undergone by former Cardinals’ teammate Seth Maness. Maness has 1.50 ERA in 6 innings for the Royals triple-A affiliate this season.

Harris would throw two innings in spring training and start the season on the disabled list as he worked to regain strength. He would also make two appearances this season for Memphis between disabled list trips, most recent being a 1-2-3 inning on April 16th.

When he was informed of his release, he was preparing to take another bullpen session as he worked towards returning to the mound. He told the Post-Dispatch that he is one to two weeks from being back to game ready.

Cardinals call up Pham, place Piscotty on DL

The St. Louis Cardinals announced today that they have placed RF Stephen Piscotty on the 10 day disabled list and called up OF Tommy Pham from Memphis. Piscotty was lifted early at the end of the 2nd inning of last night’s game after running out a ground ball and appearing to tweak his hamstring.

We’re still waiting for more information, but Piscotty seemed to indicate to the media last night that he was optimistic that it wasn’t too severe. However, he may still be day-to-day for an indeterminate amount of time right now, even with a minor spasm. This is the advantage of the shorter disabled list. Rather than Piscotty staying active day-to-day and wasting a roster spot. It also keeps him from pushing it to return sooner than he would if he were on the active roster.

The Cardinals will recall Tommy Pham who was hitting .283/.371/.500 with 4 home runs and 19 RBI in 25 games for Memphis this season. He has mostly played right field so far this season.

Pham has proven himself capable of putting together quality stretches in the Majors in the past. After he was recalled on August 27, 2015 to the end of the season, Pham hit .303/.379/.532 with 4 home runs over 39 games with the Cardinals. And then last summer in the month that followed the All STar Break, he hit .263/.359/.550 with 6 home runs in 28 games. Unfortunately he stumbled hard after that, striking out 23 times in 39 plate appearances to finish out the year.

The Cardinals could really use Pham to come up hot and put together one of those stretches for them.

Also pointed out by Wes Keene on Twitter. The Cardinals’ press release was worded as “outfielder Stephen Piscotty (right hamstring strain) have been placed” (emphasis added) indicating that at least the media relations department was prepared for the Cardinals to place two players on the DL this morning.

That other player was Dexter Fowler who left after the third inning with a shoulder injury. The Post-Dispatch is reporting this afternoon that the club hasn’t yet confirmed Dexter Fowler’s diagnosis though the club fears it may be more severe than Piscotty’s.

The club will also likely wait until they know what roster move they will make to correspond to Fowler’s DL trip before making that official.

Cardinals recall Tuivailala, place Lyons back on DL

The St. Louis Cardinals have placed LHP Tyler Lyons on the 10 day disabled list for a right intercostal strain. They have called up RHP Sam Tuivailala to take his place in the bullpen.

Lyons started the season on the disabled list as he worked towards returning from offseason knee surgery. He returned on April 20th and made two appearances, throwing 3 innings and allowing 1 earned run. His latest outing, last night saw him pitch a scoreless 7th inning right before the Cardinals launched a comeback to force the game into extra innings.

Three innings in two weeks is apparently enough as he will now hit the DL again with the muscle strain.

In his place, the Cardinals have recalled Tuivailala who most recently was up in the big leagues as the 26th man for the team’s doubleheader against the Blue Jays but was unused. He started the season on the big league roster due to the injury to Trevor Rosenthal. He has made three appearances and allowed 1 earned run over 3 innings pitched.

Tuivailala has made 7 appearances for the Memphis Redbirds so far this season and has yet to allow a run in 8.1 innings of work.

Cardinals outright OF Anthony Garcia

The St. Louis Cardinals outrighted outfielder Anthony Garcia off the team’s 40 man roster on Monday.

Garcia, 25, was first put on the 40 man roster following the 2015 season when he hit .283/.391/.477 with 13 home runs between 87 games in Springfield and 18 games in Memphis. After that, the wheels fell off.

In 2016, Garcia started the season in Memphis and hit just .192/.281/.336 in his first 38 games before being demoted to Springfield in late May. He would stay in Springfield through mid-July and regain some traction. He would hit .280 with 5 home runs over his final 31 games in Memphis.

But this season he was off to a rough start, batting .182/.250/.303 with a home run over 12 games.

It is rare for an organization to make such a move during the season without a need for his roster spot, but the Cardinals took this opportunity to create a little more room on the 40 man roster, now carrying just 38 players.

Cardinals activate Lyons, place Peralta on DL

This afternoon the Cardinals announced that they have activated LHP Tyler Lyons off the 10-day disabled list. To make room on the roster, the Cardinals have placed 3B Jhonny Peralta on the 10-day disabled list with an upper respiratory illness.

Lyons is making his return after 5 months rehabilitating after surgery on his right knee. He allowed 2 runs over 14 innings with Memphis so far this season. He will take his place in the Cardinals bullpen, where he has a 2.69 ERA over 90 innings of work since 2013.

Peralta is 3-for-25 on the season and has struggled to find a rhythm at the plate, striking out 9 times in the 8 games he’s played. Cardinals GM John Mozeliak said on Monday that the 34 year old was not on a long leash with his performance.

He has not appeared in a game since those comments as the Cardinals swept the Pirates with Jedd Gyorko and Greg Garcia taking time at third base. Mike Matheny also indicated that Matt Carpenter could return to the position if it made sense to fit different bats into the lineup. Both Matt Adams and Jose Martinez can play first base.

Matheny told the Post-Dispatch that Peralta would say he needs to get more opportunities and that the bat would come around with more opportunity to play, however with the struggles the offense has had so far this season, the lineup is not prepared to carry another struggling bat when they have players who can cover his position.

But the disabled list stint will allow the Cardinals to send Peralta out on a rehab stint for up to 30 days to get regular playing time to hopefully turn the bat around. With his short leash, this may be a last ditch effort to see if Peralta can fix the problems with his swing and return to be a productive player for the Cardinals.

Rosenthal activated from DL

The Cardinals announced today that right handed pitcher Trevor Rosenthal has been activated from the 10-day disabled list. To make room, Sam Tuivailala was optioned to Memphis.

Rosenthal was placed on the DL with a right lat injury just before Opening Night. He appeared in 5 games in spring training going 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA in 10 innings of work while striking out 11.

A healthy Rosenthal could be a boost for a bullpen that has allowed 13 earned runs over 17.1 innings of work through their first six games this season. But that is based on the hope that he has straightened out the struggles he had last year where he lost the closer’s job to Seung-hwan Oh.

Tuivailala will return to Memphis. He made 3 appearances and allowed 1 run in 3 innings of work while striking out two.