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.

Column: Cuban phenom Robert declared a free agent

Cuban phenom Luis Robert has been cleared to pursue a Major League contract according to reports early this afternoon. According to Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com, he will not be able to sign with a Major League club until May 20th, which is enough to give the Cardinals a window to get a deal done with Robert.

The Cardinals have kept a close eye on the 19-year-old prospect in the hopes that Major League Baseball would declare him a free agent before the end of the 2016-17 international signing period on June 15th. The reason? The Cardinals have blown through their international spending cap this year, spending over $9 million in bonuses, so they will be subject to a hard cap of $300,000 for individual player signings in the 2017-18 international signing period thanks to a new provision in the most recent collective bargaining agreement.

Robert defected from Cuba back in November and established residency in Haiti in March. He is widely considered, along with Shohei Otani to be the top unsigned international prospects in the world. Robert is a five tool player. At least one AL executive has called him the best player on the planet. And while the hype may seem a little extreme, it’s not just all fluff.

Just look at his numbers. He was hitting .401/.527/.687 with 12 home runs in 52 games for Ciego de Avila before he defected in November. In 2015, as an 18 year old, he hit .305/.384/.413 with 5 home runs in 68 games. He was also teammates for three years on Ciego de Avila with Jose Adolis Garcia, who the Cardinals signed in February and was the Cuban National Series’ MVP that season.

During a fan Q&A before one of the exhibition games, Mozeliak spoke about Robert. “I will say, from a high level, he is one of the most exciting players to come along in many many years. You know, you hate to use that phrase ‘Once in a generation’ type player. I actually don’t know him well enough to make that comment, but I know that from a scouting stand point he’s ridiculously talented and I assure you that many many teams are hoping that get to engage in that and the Cardinals will be one of them” (h/t to Redbird Daily for that).

A few weeks ago Robert held a showcase event in Dominican Republic and the Cardinals had scouts and lieutenants there to watch. Their interest in the young player has been made clear.

So they’re interested, they intend to pursue, and when all things are considered, I think Robert is as close to a “must sign” player as the Cardinals will ever come across. Here’s why.

First, the Cardinals desperately need a dynamic young offensive player. There is a lack of top tier offensive talent in the Cardinals’ minor league system and the organization on the whole. I’ve spoken often about the hole in the organization left behind by Oscar Taveras‘ untimely death because Mozeliak had blazed him a path to the Majors.

Robert is that kind of dynamic talent who definitely has definitely flashed some power. He is on par with the best of Cuban talent that has come to the Majors, which so far as seemingly worked out.

Second, the Cardinals are in a unique situation as a franchise. This may be their last opportunity to add a dynamic young prospect this year. They lost their first two picks of this season’s draft to the Astros as a result of the hacking scandal. And as I’ve already discussed, they’ve blown through the international spending cap this year, which places them under a hard cap penalty in the 2017-18 international signing period starting in July.

Third, those rules which place the Cardinals in penalty also help them out for now. The Cubs and the Dodgers are out. The Red Sox and Yankees will be out until the next international signing period begins. The Astros, Athletics, Braves, Padres, Reds, and Nationals are all int he same position as the Cardinals, having to pay a dollar-per-dollar penalty on his contract.

The White Sox may be the only team that has expressed interest who are not in the penalty.

Fourth, the Cardinals are flush with cash. And on the verge of a new television deal beginning. If anything, that cash might be the only thing they’re willing to part with. Based on the suggestions I’ve seen, Robert could get a bonus worth around $30 million. That means he would cost the Cardinals around $60 million once you consider the penalty.

While Robert hasn’t talked much about what he’s looking for in a team, but he did speak in an interview with MLB.com that he was paying attention to his former teammate Garcia, who the Cardinals signed in February.

The Cardinals have also signed three other Cuban players in Jonathan Machado, Randy Arrozarena, and Johan Oviedo in this year’s international signing period. They also have Aledmys Diaz playing for them in the Majors.

Ultimately it makes sense for him to maximize his financial return, but having the comfort of players you know and your countrymen, I can imagine would make life a little more comfortable in a foreign country.

But Mozeliak has gotten what he wanted. They now have a chance to sign him and the clock is ticking. Hopefully they can make it happen.

 

Column: Everything is on the table

As the St. Louis Cardinals return home for their second homestand of the season, they find themselves in relatively uncharted territory, last place. And regardless of the results of this series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, they will have spent more days in last place than not in this young season. For the Cardinals, there have been many things amiss as they return from their first trip to the Bronx since 2003. This one ended like that one did, a sweep. That team finished the year third in the division.

So the Cardinals return to St. Louis gasping for life. Over the past two weeks we’ve watched an exciting team with a good vibe around it turn into a struggling, lifeless mess simply by changing the calendar to April. Much more of this and the Cardinals will be in an unusual position, needing to ask themselves the hard questions about the viability of their plan for the franchise.

“Everything is on the table,” said John Mozeliak to reporters before tonight’s game. And I have some ideas that should be on the table.

The first being that the organization should cut ties with Jhonny Peralta.

Mike Matheny seems to want Peralta to be one of his lineup regulars, but Peralta has yet to provide him the payoff for that desire. I pointed out this winter that I felt like there was only room for one of Matt Holliday, Peralta, and Matt Adams. Mozeliak brought back two of them.

At the core, I understand the desire to want to get some return for your $10 million investment in Peralta and not wanting to have to explain that cut to your boss. At the same time, I felt like it was a good opportunity for the Cardinals to move forward and bet on guys like Adams, Jedd Gyorko, and Greg Garcia and give them an opportunity to see if they can carve themselves out a larger role for the years to come.

Because if Peralta hit well and played every day, he’s still just here for one year. And the worst thing that could happen is happening. We’re stuck with Peralta, he struggles and takes away playing time from better players (Gyorko and Garcia lead the Cardinals’ position players in WAR entering tonight’s game), and you still lose games. But if a guy like Adams could use that extra playing time to establish himself as a contributor, the team is better off going forward.

Related: So you want a cleanup hitting first baseman…

Letting Peralta go would open up the lineup card for Matheny, which would help him. Matheny wants to play Peralta regularly and feels some level of obligation to ensure he gets an opportunity to “get right.” Without Peralta’s need for playing time, he can use Gyorko and Garcia there as well as correct the organization’s mistake of committing to Matt Carpenter at first base.

And that’s idea number two, it’s time to end that commitment, and it should have been ended the day they chose to tender Adams a contract for 2017. Why would you commit to playing Carpenter at first base, when he will expect 150+ starts, and then turn around and bring back a guy who plays only first base? It makes little sense.

We saw the desire to get Adams playing time by forcing him into left field. An experiment that it appears Mozeliak hopes is over now. Of course, he also says he prefers to not move Carpenter around. But it doesn’t make much sense to me if you can find a way to make your team better with Carpenter at another position.

Freeing up Carpenter between first and third gives Matheny added flexibility. And real flexibility, not simply the ability to play multiple positions because you suck equally at all of them. Carpenter won’t win a gold glove at third base, but he’ll make the plays you expect a third baseman to make and that’s all you can ask.

Letting Carpenter play some third base lets you use Adams at first base, where he is a plus defender. And you can also get added playing time for Garcia, who now has a .401 OBP in 274 plate appearances since the start of the 2016 season.

Simply put, there are a lot of better ways you can reallocate the playing time that would otherwise be given to Peralta.

The final change I would propose is in the lineup.

Lineup criticisms are the most common Matheny complaint, next to bullpen usage, but while I comment on the lineup card quite a bit, it’s more about the logic of how it’s built that I have problems with. For example, Randal Grichuk has been among the team leaders in home runs and RBI, but until tonight hasn’t really hit higher than 7th or 8th. But Jose Martinez jumps into the lineup and bats sixth. If you trust Martinez to bat higher than Grichuk, why isn’t he your regular guy?

But here’s how I would lay out my lineup.

First move is to take Carpenter out of the third spot in the lineup. I’ve long argued that Carpenter should be batting second because it’s the most important spot in the lineup and he is the best pure hitter on the team. It’s the same reason I made a similar argument for Holliday since the day we acquired him.

But I would have Dexter Fowler and Carpenter continue to bat 1-2 and tell both to treat their at bats like they’re leading off the game. Make the pitcher work and set the tone. And specifically tell Carpenter that I’d rather have the .300, 50 doubles hitter than the .270, 25 HR hitter.

I would also consider platooning their order. Carpenter has a career .293/.390/.475 slash line against RHP and Fowler has a career .300/.390/.440 slash line against LHP. Both have much lesser numbers against the other handedness.

With those two at the top of the lineup, you have a roughly 60% chance of having the number three hitter coming to the plate with runners on base. Here’s where I take my shot with the team’s biggest power threat, Grichuk. Grichuk hit 24 home runs last year even after spending a month in Memphis. It’s a better look than burying Grichuk in the back of the lineup behind guys who don’t get on base. You would magnify the effect of his bat.

In the fourth spot, after having taken my shot, I want a guy who will put the ball in play and that is Aledmys Diaz. He does what I like to call making “baseball happen,” because anything can happen when you put the ball into play.

Behind that we have Stephen Piscotty and Yadier Molina batting fifth and sixth. And behind them you can lay it out however you want in seventh, eighth, and ninth.

Though I’d suggest Kolten Wong batting eighth or ninth. And if you choose to bat him eighth, give him the green light to steal second base every time he’s on first base with the pitcher at the plate. If he can do that at a better than 70% success rate, you’ll score more runs overall.

Those moves might not completely solve the Cardinals’ problems this year, but they would go a long way towards helping the organization diagnose where they stand and what their needs are definitively. And if you both lose and fail to answer those questions, 2017 will really have been a failure, regardless of win-loss record.

Coming back home having left the W’s behind

The St. Louis Cardinals (3-9, 5th in the NLC) come back home after a disastrous six-game road trip that saw them go 1-5, including a sweep by the New York Yankees. They return to face the Pittsburgh Pirates (6-6, T-3rd in the NLC) who are coming off a sweep of the defending World Series Champion Chicago Cubs.

The Cardinals were 10-9 against the Pirates last season, including 5-5 against them at Busch Stadium after sweeping them in the final series of the season.

Game 13: Lynn v. Nova

Lance Lynn (0-1, 5.23 ERA) will take the ball in tonight’s series opener against a team that has given him fits. In his last time out, Lynn allowed four earned runs over five innings of work as he struggled against the Nationals. The last time Lynn faced the Pirates was in September of 2015 when he threw five shutout innings. While there are three Pirates who have faced Lynn twenty or more times and hit better than .300 against him, Jordy Mercer has absolutely ripped him to a .389/.450/.556 slash line.

Ivan Nova (1-1, 2.25 ERA) has pitched some of the best baseball of his life since being traded to the Pirates last summer. His career ERA in a Pirates uniform is a full run and a half better than his career ERA in a Yankees uniform. His success continued in his second time out, allowing just 3 earned runs over 6 innings, but took the loss to the Reds. He has never faced the Cardinals in his career. Dexter Fowler leads all Cardinals, having gone 2-for-3 against Nova in their careers.

Game 14: Leake v. Kuhl

If you’re wondering how you back up 8 innings of one run baseball, Mike Leake (1-1, 0.60 ERA) has a good idea. He threw 7 shutout innings against the Nationals his last turn on the bump. He’ll take the mound in the second game of the series. Leake was 1-2 with a 5.82 ERA in 4 starts against the Pirates last season. Ex-Cardinal David Freese has hit .560 against Leake in 25 at bats against him to lead the Pirates.

Chad Kuhl (1-0, 2.38 ERA) has two solid starts under his belt this season, allowing just a single run over 6.1 innings against the Red Sox last week. He was 0-1 with a 6.43 ERA in 2 starts against the Cardinals last season. He allowed 2 earned runs over 5 innings in his only start in Busch Stadium. Both Matt Carpenter and Yadier Molina are 2-for-4 against him.

Game 15: Wacha v. Cole

Michael Wacha (1-1, 3.00 ERA) continued his good start, allowing 3 earned runs over 6 innings of work against the Yankees in his second start of the season, though he still took the loss. Wacha was 0-1 with a 6.38 ERA over four starts against the Pirates last season. The Pirates are led by Andrew McCutchen‘s .480 batting average against him in 25 at bats.

Gerrit Cole (1-1, 5.29 ERA) started out rough on Opening Day, but has rebounded with two straight quality starts. He allowed 2 earned runs over 6 innings his last time out to get his first win of the season in a game against the Cubs. Cole was 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in 2 starts against the Cardinals last year. He has a 3.13 ERA in 5 starts at Busch Stadium in his career. Matt Carpenter leads the Cardinals with a .385 batting average and 3 home runs against Cole in 26 at bats.

Who’s hot, who’s not

I think you can easily make a case that both Stephen Piscotty and Mike Leake are hot coming into this series. Piscotty has hit .318 with 2 home runs and 8 RBI in the six games since returning from a knee injury that kept him out of the lineup the last two games of the first homestand. Leake, of course, threw seven scoreless innings his last time out.

On the cold side, I have to take Dexter Fowler. The Cardinals’ leadoff hitter is 3-for-22 over the past week with just a single extra base hit and a major contributing factor to their offensive woes to start the season.

It’s a tossup between David Freese and Andrew McMutchen for the Pirates. Freese has hit .389 along with a .522 on base percentage over the past week, but McCutchen has hit .333 with a .708 slugging percentage.

On the cold side, the Pirates have Josh Bell who is 1-for-15 over the last week, having started in 4 of the team’s six games.

On the shelf

Matt Carpenter is dealing with a finger injury that looks like it will take him out of the season opener. He is day-to-day as he deals with that. Tyler Lyons will also make what is expected to be his final rehab appearance for Memphis before being called up to help solidify the Cardinals’ bullpen.

Gregory Polanco is day-to-day with groin discomfort and has missed the last couple days. May be available off the bench to pinch hit if needed.

Ex-Cardinals Watch

2011 postseason hero David Freese signed a one year deal with Pittsburgh last season and then signed a two-year deal over the offseason to return. He wasn’t quite expected to have the role he has, but legal troubles with Jung-Ho Kang has given Freese an extended opportunity and he has responded, entering the series hitting .344/.488/.594 with 2 home runs.

Ah, there’s Pete Kozma!

The Cardinals (3-6, T-4th in NLC) are coming off their third series loss to open up the season, but managed to win a tough one against Max Scherzer in the series finale on Wednesday to avoid the sweep. Those are opposite feelings to those of the Yankees (5-4, T-2nd in ALE) who are coming off a sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays after struggling to open up the year.

The title is, of course, a reference to the Washington series preview that asked where Pete Kozma was. Kozma, who provided some postseason heroics against the Nationals, made the Yankees big league roster this year after not playing in the Majors last year.

This will be the Cardinals’ first trip ever to the new Yankee Stadium and the first time they have faced off against the Yankees in the Bronx since 2003. The Yankees swept the Cardinals in that meeting. There are no players who appeared in that series still playing professional baseball in the Majors. Though it’s a fun fact that Mike Matheny and Joe Girardi both caught for the Cardinals in that series.

Game 10: Wacha vs Tanaka

Michael Wacha (1-0, 1.50 ERA) will complete the second trip through the rotation when he takes the mound on Friday night. Wacha allowed 1 run over 8 innings in his debut against the Reds. It was a big start for him as he carried the momentum from a strong spring into the season. Wacha started one game against the Yankees in 2014, allowing 3 runs over 7 innings. Four Yankees have faced Wacha before, led by Starlin Castro who has hit .455 with 2 home runs against Wacha in 22 at bats.

Masahiro Tanaka (0-1, 11.74 ERA) is making his third start of the season as the Yankees brought him back in their fifth game after he failed to make it through three innings in the season opener. He allowed 3 runs over 5 innings against the Orioles in his last start. Tanaka is 20-7 with a 3.31 ERA in 39 starts at Yankee Stadium. No Cardinals batters have faced Tanaka.

Game 11: Martinez vs Sabathia

Carlos Martinez (0-1, 3.65 ERA) has had an up and down start to the season, dominating the Cubs on opening night before getting tagged for five earned runs over five innings by the Reds. Martinez pitched two scoreless innings of relief when they faced the Yankees in 2014. Five Yankees players have faced Martinez before, hitting a collective .227 against him.

CC Sabathia (1-0, 1.64 ERA) has kept his opponents in check so far this season as the Yankees have won both of his games. He allowed two earned runs over six innings of work in his last start against the Orioles. Sabathia is 2-0 with a 2.61 ERA in 3 starts against the Cardinals, the last coming in 2008 where he threw a three-hit complete game shutout while pitching for the Brewers. He is 49-31 with a 3.70 ERA in 108 career starts in Yankee Stadium. Two Cardinals players have faced Sabathia before, led by Dexter Fowler who is 2-for-5 against him.

Game 12: Wainwright vs TBD

Adam Wainwright (0-2, 7.00 ERA) allowed 5 earned runs on 11 hits over four innings in his last start against the Nationals as he was unable to dance his way out of trouble like he did against the Cubs. Wainwright has never faced the Yankees before though six Yankees have faced Wainwright before, hitting a collective .205 against him. Starlin Castro has hit .256 against him. Former teammate Matt Holliday is 0-for-4 against Wainwright.

The Yankees have not yet confirmed who will be starting opposite Wainwright, but it would be Michael Pineda‘s turn in the rotation. Pineda allowed just one run on two hits over 7.2 innings in his last start against the Rays. Pineda has never faced the Cardinals and is 13-11 with a 3.97 ERA in 38 starts in Yankee Stadium. Dexter Fowler and Jhonny Peralta have both faced Pineda before, both are 1-for-3 against him. Fowler hit a double while Peralta hit a home run.

Who’s hot, who’s not

For the Cardinals it is definitely Aledmys Diaz who is hot. He played two of the games over the weekend against the Nationals and hit three home runs. He has hit .273/.273/.682 with 3 home runs and 5 RBI over the last week. Stephen Piscotty gets an honorable mention, mainly on the strength of his 5 RBI game on Wednesday afternoon. For the Yankees, it’s Aaron Judge. In the last week, Judge is batting .429/.529/1.071 (not a typo, a slugging percentage over 1.000) with 3 home runs and 6 RBI.

The Cardinals’ bullpen gets the cold nod. If it wasn’t for Matthew Bowman, the stats on the bullpen would be awful. It’s just ugly. Bowman has a 0.50 WHIP in a team high 5 appearances. The second lowest WHIP in the bullpen is Miguel Socolovich‘s 1.60, which is not very good. Brett Cecil, Kevin Siegrist, and Jonathan Broxton all have allowed greater than two and a half baserunners per inning on average.

For the Yankees its hard to find a clear cut cold option. I’d have to go with Austin Romine who is 1-for-9 since being called up to take over when regular catcher Gary Sanchez hit the disabled list this week.

On the shelf

Tyler Lyons threw six innings of two-hit shutout baseball in a rehab start against the Colorado Sky Sox on Wednesday. The club may begin to look at calling him up in the coming days as their bullpen has had some struggles.

The Yankees are without two starting position players as Didi Gregorius (right shoulder strain) and Gary Sanchez (right biceps strain) are on the DL and not expected to return until May.

Ex-Cardinals Watch

With the Yankees are former Cardinals players Matt Holliday and Pete Kozma. Holliday is currently hitting .276/.462/.448 with a home run and leads all of baseball with 10 walks. Kozma is 0-for-2 with a walk.

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.

Where’s Pete Kozma when you need him?

The Cardinals (2-4, 4th in NLC) head to Washington (3-3, T-2nd in NLE) for their first road series of the season. They’re looking to gain some traction as the starting pitching has typically been strong, but the offense has been lacking. Seemingly plenty of opportunities, just failure to convert, which has been the typical story in St. Louis for awhile now.

The Nationals played a rare three game home series to open up the season before heading on the road for three games and then return home. They come into the series having lost their three game series against the Phillies.

Game 7: Wainwright v. Roark

Adam Wainwright will be looking to get the Cardinals’ season pointed in the right direction as he takes the mound for his second start. Wainwright allowed 2 earned runs over 5 innings in a very mixed start against the Cubs. Wainwright was 1-0 against the Nationals last season, allowing 4 earned over 7 innings of work. He has made six regular season starts in Nationals Park and is 4-2 with a 3.55 ERA.

On the other side, Tanner Roark will be making his second start of the season. He allowed 2 earned runs over 6 innings of work and picked up the win in his season debut against the Marlins. The last start he made against the Cardinals was in 2013 where he allowed 4 earned runs in 5 innings of work and took the loss. He is 22-13 and has a 2.79 ERA in 274 innings of work in Nationals Park.

Game 8: Lynn v Gonzalez

You can call it a successful return to the mound for Lance Lynn who allowed 2 earned runs over 5.1 innings of work in his season debut against the Cubs, especially against a team that has given him fits in the past. He last pitched against the Nationals in 2015, allowing 1 earned run over 6.1 innings of work. He’s made two starts in Nationals Park in his career and has a 3.86 ERA.

A rain delay was not enough to derail Gio Gonzalez‘s season debut as he threw six shutout innings against the Marlins. He made one start against the Cardinals last year and was blown out to the tune of 6 runs over 4.2 innings of work. He has made 74 starts in Nationals Park in his career and is 33-20 with a 3.24 ERA.

Game 9: Leake v Scherzer

Lost in a game where the offense didn’t show up, Mike Leake was downright dominant in his debut against the Reds, allowing 1 earned run on 6 hits and 1 walk over 8 innings of work. He was 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA in 2 starts against the Nationals last season. He is 1-6 with  3.75 ERA in 6 starts in Nationals Park in his career.

St. Louis native Max Schezer allowed 2 earned runs in 6.2 innings of work in his season debut against the Phillies. He was 1-1 with a 3.21 ERA in 2 starts against the Cardinals last season. He is 13-10 with a 3.01 ERA in 31 starts in Nationals Park for his career.

Who’s hot, who’s not

Aledmys Diaz hit two home runs on Saturday afternoon and went 1-for-4 on Sunday to put his batting average on the season at .296, which leads the team. And for the Nationals, Daniel Murphy went 1-for-4 on Sunday which moved his batting average to .480.

Matt Carpenter was going to be my guy here, but getting on base twice on Sunday bumped him, instead I’m going with Jhonny Peralta. Peralta is 2-for-11 on the season and is hitting .182. He, along with Diaz, are the only two Cardinals who have not taken a walk yet this season, but Peralta has 6 strikeouts in those 11 ABs.

And for the Nationals, I’m going with their bullpen. It features Blake Treinen, Enny Romero, Oliver Perez, Sammy Solis, and Shawn Kelley, all of whom have ERAs over 8.

On the shelf

Trevor Rosenthal is expected to be activated by the Cardinals for this series, Sam Tuivailala was sent to catch up with the Memphis Redbirds after Sunday’s game. Tyler Lyons is scheduled to make his second rehab start on Wednesday for Memphis. Stephen Piscotty was out of the lineup over the weekend with knee soreness, but is expected to be back in the lineup this week.

For the Nationals, shortstop Trea Turner is day-to-day with a hamstring problem. He is expected to miss 2-3 days, which would put him returning in the middle of their series against the Cardinals.

How do you hate a Brandon Phillips-less Reds team?

The Cincinnati Reds (2-1, T-1st in NL Central) come to town fresh off a series victory against the Philadelphia Phillies. On the downside for them, that loss was their season opener. The Reds aren’t expecting much this season with a very young team, but as with any in division rival, can cause problems because of how often the teams play.

The Cardinals (1-2, 3rd in NL Central) lost their opening series against the Cubs after winning Opening Day. The team received good starting pitching, but struggled to convert with runners in scoring position, a problem the team has had the last few years in general.

Game 4: Leake v Garrett

Mike Leake will make his season debut for the Cardinals against his former team, he spent five and a half seasons with the Reds before being traded and then signing a big five year deal with the Cardinals before the 2016 season. Last year Leake’s results were questionable, but all his fielding independent metrics were very good. The hope is that the defense will improve behind him, which will allow him to improve.

Leake posted a 3.81 ERA over 26 innings this spring for the Cardinals. He has a 4.05 ERA in 19 starts in Busch Stadium. He went 0-2 and posted a 7.25 ERA in four starts against the Reds last season.

Amir Garrett, the Reds’ #2 prospect according to MLB.com and a consensus top-100 prospect in baseball, will take the ball to make his Major League debut in the season opener. He posted a 2.55 ERA over 145 innings last year between Triple-A and Double-A. He had a 4.22 ERA over a team high 21 innings in spring training for the Reds. The left hander has a mid-90 mph fastball and two other off pitches he can use to produce outs.

Game 5: Wacha v Arroyo

Michael Wacha will get the first opportunity to put his strong spring results to the test in the second game of the series. Wacha posted a 2.42 ERA over 26 innings this spring as he is looking to re-establish himself as a key part of the Cardinals’ rotation after struggling through last season and suffering a recurrence of his stress injury. He is 16-8 with a 3.68 ERA in 41 starts and 7 relief appearances in Busch Stadium for his career. He was 1-0 with a 6.75 ERA in three starts and a relief appearance last year.

Bronson Arroyo will be making his first big league start since July 15, 2014 where he went 5 innings and allowed just 1 earned run against the Dodgers before having Tommy John surgery. He would miss the 2015 season before signing with the Nationals for 2016. He threw 9 minor league innings before elbow soreness shut him down again. After another procedure in August, he was back in camp this spring with the Reds. He had a 4.70 ERA over 8 innings for the Reds this spring. He is 3-9 with a 5.33 ERA in 17 starts in Busch Stadium for his career.

Game 6: Martinez v Feldman

In his season debut, Carlos Martinez proved the hype was real as he shut down the Cubs over 7.1 innings. He struck out 10 and walked none. He was 2-0 with 3.46 ERA in 2 starts against the Reds last season. He is 15-13 with a 3.63 ERA in 37 starts and 36 relief appearances in Busch Stadium.

Scott Feldman didn’t even make it through 5 innings in the Reds’ season opener, allowing 3 earned runs in 4.2 innings of work. After a leadoff home run and all three runs scoring in the first two innings, he did settle in. Feldman has started just once against the Cardinals in his career, allowing 5 runs in 5.1 innings of work in 2013 while pitching for the Cubs. So he is 0-1 with an 8.44 ERA in 1 start at Busch Stadium for his career.

Who’s hot, who’s not

Yadier Molina went 3-for-9 with 3 walks against the Cubs. Meanwhile Randal Grichuk put together a great series, going 3-for-12 with a home run and 4 RBI with every one of those three hits driving in a run. *cough* clean-up hitter *cough*

Jedd Gyorko, meanwhile, has appeared in 2 games for the Cardinals so far this season and is 0-for-6 with 3 strikeouts. Probably don’t want to miss Brett Cecil‘s 36.00 ERA, allowing 4 runs over an inning of work.

I’m also going to give the hot nod to the entire Reds bullpen. They’ve had two quick exits by starting pitchers already this year and have had to pitch 12.1 innings, allowing just one run on 7 hits.

Cold on the Reds is right fielder Scott Schebler who is 1-for-9 so far this season. Joey Votto is right there too at 2-for-11 with a home run and no walks.

On the shelf

Trevor Rosenthal threw a bullpen session yesterday and may be back on April 9th, when he is expected to be eligible to come off the DL. It seems Meanwhile, Tyler Lyons should be beginning a Triple-A rehab assignment any day now.

The Reds are missing catcher Devin Mesoraco who is on rehab assignment in Double-A. Starting pitcher Anthony DeSclafani, who in 20 starts last year was the Reds’ best starting pitcher, is likely out for the year with a UCL sprain.