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.

Column: Gyorko should be in the mix in left field

Brian Stull over at STL Baseball Weekly wrote an article yesterday about Jedd Gyorko playing in left field for the Cardinals on Tuesday against the Brewers. The best part about it may have been the tweet promoting the article and the way everyone quoted it and then projected their expectations based on the tweet without having read the article.

In the article, Mike Matheny was asked if Gyorko in left field was going to become a more regular thing. He basically said probably not and that he only appeared there for two innings on Tuesday night because of their short bench.

But in all honesty, I really like the idea of Gyorko adding left field to his repertoire. I believe I talked about it on one of the UCB Podcasts earlier this season when discussing the Matt Adams in left field experiment. I always felt that Gyorko should have been the one learning in left field.

Now in the first part of the season, Gyorko has gotten off to a tremendous start. He has a career best batting line of .296/.346/.495 with 8 home runs through the Cardinals’ first 64 games.

But entering this season he has a career batting line of .238/.296/.418. I wouldn’t be relying on a player with a career OBP of .296 suddenly becoming a guy capable of reliably hitting .296. No, we’ll probably see a player much more on par with his career averages through the final four months of the season.

In fact, he’s already showing signs of that performance slipping. He’s batting .244 over the last four weeks, .189 over the last two, and .176 over the last seven days. Regression is a wicked mistress.

I expressed some concern when the Cardinals made the decision to designate Jhonny Peralta for assignment that he had a better batting average than Gyorko did between when he returned off the disabled list on May 19th and when he was DFA’d on June 9th.

Courtesy of that hot start, he’s also batting fourth in the Cardinals’ lineup. His career numbers are not the guy you want batting cleanup in your lineup.

Ultimately though, Gyorko was never penciled in to be anything more than a utility player for the Cardinals the past two years. He was supposed to get 450 to 500 plate appearances, bounce between infield positions, and go on a hot streak or two where he supplanted a starting player for a week or two, but ultimately be a utility player.

He’s played all four infield positions in his career, so why not add more utility?

The Cardinals need to add at least one more bat to this lineup and preferably two, and third base is one of the easiest positions for them to upgrade. With Matt Carpenter at first, Kolten Wong having a career year at second, and Gyorko not being good enough defensively to stick at shortstop, where do you play him?

Enter left field.

I don’t see this like the Adams experiment in left field, though I don’t think that went as badly as most do. When I watched him, what I saw was inexperience far more than just simply being incapable of playing the position. I felt like with enough time he could become a passable option in left field.

A key part of playing outfield is ball tracking and that’s not something that first baseman have to do with any regularity. The vast majority of what first basemen do is stand still and catch the ball. They aren’t tracking balls. That’s something that the rest of the infield does quite often, so it is a skill that Gyorko should have far more refined than Adams did.

It’s a move that makes sense for the Cardinals in many ways, but perhaps the most important is that it gives John Mozeliak more flexibility if he elects to add an offensive player this summer.

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.

Five things about the Phillies Series

The changes worked! Or maybe not. Hard to tell that even though the St. Louis Cardinals swept the Philadelphia Phillies this weekend after a number of changes on the coaching staff by John Mozeliak. Mainly because it’s worth remembering that the Phillies have the worst record in baseball.

The Cardinals will now head for a real test, they will host the division leading Milwaukee Brewers who have a 2.5 game lead in the NL Central.

Wong hits the ground running

As I pointed out on Friday, Wong came off the DL having hit .311/.408/.462 with 9 doubles, 2 triples and a home run since the Cardinals returned from that sweep in the Bronx on April 16th.

He would go 5-for-10 in the Phillies series with a walk, a hit by pitch, and a pair of doubles. His season batting line is up to .294/.393/.434. Since April 16th, his line is up to .328/.423/.483. It’s almost to the point you don’t need to make the distinction.

He, along with Tommy Pham, continue to be some of the Cardinals best hitters over the last month. Since we have so many troubles up top in the lineup, perhaps it’s time to let Wong out of the 8th spot on a more regular basis?

Carpenter continues lead off success

Matt Carpenter went 4-for-12 with a pair of doubles in the Phillies series as he continued to lead off for the Cardinals. Since moving back to the lead off spot he has hit in all five games and is batting .350/.381/.750.

I am not a member of the “Carpenter can only hit when leading off” club, but the numbers are hard to dispute. Unfortunately, that just makes the Cardinals’ lineup far more top heavy.

Fowler likes hitting second?

With Carpenter leading off, Dexter Fowler has been slid back to the second spot in the lineup and went 4-for-10 with a pair of doubles, a home run, and a pair of walks. In the 10 games before moving him back to second, Fowler was hitting .219, so perhaps the move has worked out well for him as well.

Wacha bounces back

Michael Wacha had struggled in his previous three starts, seeing his season ERA jump from 2.74 to 4.67 in the process. He returned to his streak of throwing at least 6 innings as he went six innings and allowed just two runs on five hits and two walks. It’s a good bounce back for a pitcher whose next start will come against the Brewers.

Martinez dazzles

Carlos Martinez dropped his ERA to 2.95 while allowing just 4 hits and a walk over 9 shutout innings on Saturday against the Phillies. His 89 game score ranks this start as the best start of his career, topping the 87 he posted in an extra inning loss to the Giants back in May. The offense backed him up this time to the tune of 7 runs.

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.

Five things about the Reds Series

The St. Louis Cardinals return home this weekend having been swept on the road trip. An 0-4 showing against the Cincinnati Reds put them on a seven game losing streak and clamoring for changes to the team’s coaching staff has reached a fever pitch. Those changes may be coming at a 2 pm Central press conference that the Cardinals have called.

Regardless, the Cardinals have a good chance to sweep at home against the league worst Philadelphia Phillies this weekend.

A failure to hold leads

Much like the Cubs series, the Cardinals struck first on Monday an Wednesday for multiple runs and then failed to hold off their opponents.

On Monday, the Cardinals scored a pair of runs in the top of the 5th courtesy of a Paul DeJong double and a Carlos Martinez single. However, things would unravel in a hurry in the bottom of the 7th as Martinez allowed the first three batters in the inning to reach before the Reds put four runs on the board. That would be the final score.

On Wednesday, they put three runs on the board in the third on a Matt Carpenter home run, a Stephen Piscotty double and a Jedd Gyorko single. The Reds chipped back with one in the fifth before putting four runs on the board in the seventh.

Piscotty hitting well

Piscotty went 6-for-14 in the four game series as he has made his home in the third spot in the lineup with Matheny’s recent reshuffling.

Since his return from personal leave, Piscotty is hitting .351/.468/.595 with 3 doubles and 2 home runs in 12 games. He has hits in 10 of those 12 games.

Carpenter proves why he should and shouldn’t lead off

Mike Matheny finally made the move to return Matt Carpenter to the lead off spot on Wednesday and he responded by hitting home runs on both Wednesday and Thursday, proving why his bat is far more valuable to the Cardinals in the second or third spot in the lineup.

I’m not a believer in the idea that Carpenter cannot hit outside the lead off spot, but the numbers are hard to refute as sample sizes get larger. He is batting .296/.386/.488 in 492 games as the lead off hitter in the lineup and outside of the lead off spot he’s hitting .245/.346/.400 in 284 games.

Cecil shows off Mr. Hyde

Brett Cecil had entered Wednesday’s game with 7 consecutive appearances without allowing a run. Over those 7 appearances he had allowed just 2 hits and a walk over 6 innings of work. He had lowered his ERA from 5.79 to 4.05. And then he came in to pitch in the seventh.

A couple singles and a strikeout to open the inning set the stage for a Patrick Kivelahn home run. He would then go on to leave one runner on base that Trevor Rosenthal would inherit and allow to score on a Joey Votto home run. His ERA ballooned back up to 5.66.

Cecil had been a solid reliever in the month of May more often than not, but games like Wednesday night’s continue to make it difficult to rely on him in spots that his $30 million contract say he should be used in.

DeJong cooling off

After a hot start, Paul DeJong looks to be cooling off, going just 2-for-14 in the series. His batting average is down to .244 and he has yet to work any walks during his cup of coffee here in the big leagues. Beyond the walks, he struck out 6 times in those 14 plate appearances, a 42.9% K rate.

He is likely poised to be returned to Memphis when Kolten Wong returns.

Five things about the Cubs Series

Well that wasn’t supposed to happen. The St. Louis Cardinals headed to Wrigley Field for a three game weekend set against the Chicago Cubs and came up empty, swept in three games. Every game was close, every game was winnable, and the Cardinals led at points in each of those games and was unable to convert anything into a win.

The Cardinals are now 26-28 and 2.5 games behind Milwaukee for the lead in the NL Central. The scary part is that the Cubs are embarking on a stretch where they will play bad teams, so they may be poised to put together a run that will see them put a lead on the division.

As for the Cardinals, they now head to Cincinnati to begin a four game series against the Reds.

Lost leads

The Cardinals had a lead in each of the three games, but came up winless which just increased the frustration level with this series.

On Friday, Dexter Fowler received his World Series ring and led off the game with a solo shot. The Cardinals added another run courtesy of Magneuris Sierra in the top of the 2nd. After that, they stopped scoring as a struggling John Lackey would go on to pitch 7 innings. The Cubs tied up the game in the bottom of the 6th and then won it in the bottom of the 8th on a couple of poor defensive decisions by Magneuris Sierra and Jhonny Peralta.

On Saturday, Jose Martinez plated Fowler and Tommy Pham with his first at bat in the top of the first. They would add another with Yadier Molina‘s sixth home run of the season in the sixth inning. But the Cubs would score four runs in the bottom of the 7th as Mike Leake ran into trouble and allowed a grand slam to Kyle Schwarber.

On Sunday, the Cubs struck first with a run in the bottom of the third, but the Cardinals came back in the top of the fourth to take a lead. Stephen Piscotty hit a three run home run and Paul DeJong drove in Jedd Gyorko as the Cardinals sent all 9 batters to the plate. But that 4-1 lead wouldn’t hold for long as Michael Wacha turned around and allowed five runs in the bottom of the fourth. The Cardinals tied it in the sixth, but the Cubs would beat Matthew Bowman for the winning run in the 7th on three unlikely singles by left handed hitters (Bowman had allowed just a .167 batting average to LHBs entering the game).

Missing Gyorko

With Jedd Gyorko staying behind in St. Louis for a couple days with his family following the birth of his daughter last week, the Cardinals lineup looked completely different. Gone was Gyorko’s .323 average in the #4 spot, which stacks up 7th in Major League Baseball among cleanup hitters.

Gyorko has 60% of the Cardinals’ at bats in the cleanup spot this weekend and anyone else has hit .265 with 18 RBI in 23 games.

On Friday afternoon, Yadier Molina was in the cleanup spot and went 0-for-3 and left four runners on base. Three of those game while striking out with the bases loaded in the top of the 8th of a 2-2 game. The Cubs took the lead in the bottom and never looked back.

On Saturday, Jose Martinez got a crach at it and drove in a pair of runs in the first inning, but never came to the plate again with a runner on base.

Nice to have Piscotty back

Since returning from his personal leave to spend some time with his mother following her ALS diagnosis, Piscotty has gone 5-for-14 with a home run and five walks, reaching base in all five games since his return, for a line of .357/.526/.643. He also seems to have found a home in the #3 spot in the Cardinals lineup with the move of Matt Carpenter to the #2 spot. Seeing him put some good games together has been nice to see. This team needs him hitting again.

Carpenter goes hitless

Matt Carpenter went hitless in the series against the Cubs. That’s the first time this season he’s gone hitless since the middle of last September when he went 0-for-10 in a series also against the Cubs. Something he only did three times last season.

In 29 games since May 1st, Carpenter is hitting .192/.331/.404. He does still have 6 home runs, but he doesn’t have a home run or an RBI since May 21st against the Giants.

I’m not one of these guys who believes that Carpenter can only lead off, but it isn’t like Dexter Fowler has been killing it in the leadoff role either. Perhaps it would be worth swapping them up for a week and see what happens. If you insist on batting two most struggling batters 1-2, what difference does their order make? If Carpenter says he’s more comfortable leading off, put him there and see what happens. It’s not like you have anything to lose.

Is it time to scratch Wacha?

Michael Wacha started the season on an excellent streak. In his first 7 starts, he had a 2.74 ERA and pitched at least 6 innings in each start. Since then, it’s been some very opposite results. In his last three starts, Wacha has a 11.91 ERA and hasn’t even made it into the sixth inning.

In his first 7 starts last year, Wacha had a 3.12 ERA. Over his next three he had a 12.00 ERA. Before settling in with a 3.75 ERA over his next 10 starts.

But with Tyler Lyons and John Gant now up on the big league roster and capable of acting as both starter and reliever and Marco Gonzales now four starts into his return at Memphis with a 2.81 ERA, does the team look at giving Wacha a brief rest? With the fear of his shoulder issues returning, the team looks to be taking a cautious approach to him.