All posts by Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.

Cards Add Grichuk, Kelly, Duke for Big Cubs Series

(photo: Randal Grichuk/USA TODAY Sports Images)

St. Louis Cardinals press release

Randal Grichuk (USA TODAY Sports Images)

The St. Louis Cardinals announce that following Thursday afternoon’s game in New York, right-handed pitcher Sam Tuivailala (too-ee-vai-lull-lah) was optioned to Memphis (AAA) and outfielder Magneuris (Mag-NARE-ees) Sierra was optioned to Springfield (AA).

Prior to today’s game, the Cardinals designated for assignment veteran catcher Eric Fryer.   In addition, the Cardinals recalled catcher Carson Kelly from Memphis, activated outfielder Randal Grichuk from the 10-day disabled list and activated left-handed relief pitcher Zach Duke from the 60-day disabled list.  Duke will take Fryer’s spot on the 40-man roster.

Carson Kelly (USA TODAY Sports Images)

Kelly, who just turned 23 on July 14, was the starting catcher on the Pacific Coast League All-Star team this season.  In 83 games at Memphis, Kelly was batting .283 with 10 home runs and 41 RBI.  The rookie made his Major League debut in 2016 and appeared in 10 games batting .154 (2-13) with an RBI.  Kelly won the 2015 Rawlings Gold Glove award for the “Best Defensive Catcher” in all of Minor League Baseball.  At the time of his promotion this season, Kelly led the PCL in total chances (597) and put outs (559), while ranking 5th in runners caught stealing (26.7%, 12 CS-45 SB ATT).

Grichuk, 26, was activated off the 10-day disabled list retroactive to July 10 after a lower back injury placed him on the list during the All-Star Break.  The outfielder played a rehab game with Springfield on Wednesday and was 1-for-4 with a three-run home run.  Grichuk is batting .215 with nine home runs and 30 RBI in 61 games this season in St. Louis.

Zach Duke (USA TODAY Sports Images)

Duke, 34, underwent Tommy John surgery during the 2016 off-season and missed all of Spring Training and the first three months of the 2017 season.  The southpaw made nine rehab appearances between the rookie league Gulf Coast Cardinals, Palm Beach (A) and Memphis (AAA).  He threw nine scoreless innings allowing just four hits with a walk and 10 strikeouts.  Duke appeared in 81 games during the 2016 season making 53 appearances with the White Sox before he was traded to the Cardinals and made 28 appearances with the Cardinals to finish the season.

Tuivailala was 2-1 with a 2.14 ERA in 18 appearances covering 21.0 innings with 18 strikeouts.  Sierra hit .350 (7-20) in five games during this recent road trip posting two three-hit games and was batting .365 (19-52) on the 2017 season in 13 games.  Fryer, 31, batted .154 over 33 games this season serving as Yadier Molina’s backup.

Kelly will wear No. 30.

 

Brian Walton’s take

For the scuffling Cardinals, every series is big, but the one this weekend in Chicago is more important than most. The Cards did what they could to prepare, which is to turn over three roster spots.

One could question why Sierra was sent down over Jose Martinez, but the motives seem clear to me. Grichuk will be starting, so either Sierra would be on the bench in St. Louis or he can go back to playing daily at Springfield. If/when there is another starting opening with the Cardinals, one can guess that Sierra will be back. Despite his high average, the prospect still needs a lot of work, including hitting the ball with authority and making better throws from the outfield.

There was a vocal minority of Cardinals fans who seized on a small sample of success last season to convince themselves that Fryer was more than his long history said he was – a journeyman with solid receiving skills and a good teammate, but possessing a weak bat. That is not a unique combination in MLB.

Yadier Molina has not started just two games in the last four weeks, the second of which was Thursday afternoon in New York. That would seem to position him to start all three games this weekend. The big question – not just this weekend, but the rest of the way – is how much good Kelly will be riding the bench. Of course, you cannot pinch hit your only reserve catcher.

I have lost count, but I think this is the 13th time Tuivailala has been up and down over the last four years. As noted above, Duke has been sharp in the minor leagues and could help a Cardinals bullpen that has been recently in disarray. Again, I have to stop and reflect on the internet GMs who over the winter wanted to see Duke’s release simply to clear up a 40-man roster spot. Simply put, that would have been a dumb move.

By the way, getting Fryer (or someone) off the full 40-man roster was necessary to activate Duke off the 60-day disabled list, as the latter did not count against the 40-man limit. The Cardinals have seven days (formerly 10 days) to set Fryer’s fate. A release is most likely, though a trade or waiver claim is not impossible.

It is interesting to note that the Cardinals now have four left-handed pitchers in the pen. Duke joins Brett Cecil, Kevin Siegrist and Tyler Lyons. Right-handed relievers active are Seung-hwan Oh, Trevor Rosenthal, Matt Bowman and John Brebbia.

For more

Check the always-free Roster Matrix here at The Cardinal Nation, for up-to-date roster details and every transaction made across the system all year long.

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Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2017 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Palm Beach Cardinals Notebook: 2017 Week 15

Dodging rain seemingly all week, the Palm Beach Cardinals snapped their eight-game losing skid by winning the final two of five contests completed. Ryan Helsley continues to dominate on the mound while battery-mate Jose Godoy leads the offense.

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Cardinals Lose Second Outfielder in Two Days

(photo: Stephen Piscotty/USA TODAY Sports Images)

St. Louis Cardinals press release

Stephen Piscotty (USA TODAY Sports Images)

Prior to tonight’s (Saturday’s) game with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the St. Louis Cardinals have placed outfielder Stephen Piscotty on the 10-day disabled list with a right groin strain and have recalled rookie outfielder Magneuris (Mag-NARE-ees) Sierra from Springfield (AA).

Piscotty, 26, injured his right groin last night while making a catch in the 9th inning off a ball hit to right field by the Pirates’ Josh Harrison and left the game.

The Cardinals right-fielder is making his second appearance on the disabled list this season as he missed 12 games from May 5-19 with a strained right hamstring earlier in the year.  Piscotty is batting .236 with six home runs and 31 RBI over 69 games in 2017.

Magneuris Sierra (USA TODAY Sport Images)

Sierra, 21, made his Major League debut on May 7 in Atlanta earlier this season after being purchased from Single-A Palm Beach.  He hit safely in his first eight straight games and currently has the longest active hitting streak on the Cardinals.  The left-handed hitting outfielder was batting .375 (12-32) with three RBI and a stolen base in eight games before being optioned to Springfield (AA) on May 19.

Through 65 games in the minors between Springfield and Palm Beach, Sierra is batting .286 with 16 doubles, six triples, a home run, 32 RBI and is 14-of-22 in stolen base attempts.

Sierra will wear uniform No. 43.

Brian Walton’s take

Well, in terms of 40-man roster outfield choices to replace Piscotty, the Cardinals were down to Sierra or Chad Huffman. The choice they made is of the player with the greatest upside. Why not?

Looks like the starting outfield could be Tommy Pham, Dexter Fowler and Sierra.

Saturday minor league news

Outfield need

I bet the Cards now wish they hadn’t sold Todd Cunningham’s contract to the Dodgers earlier this week. Memphis hasn’t replaced Jose Martinez, called up to St. Louis on Friday and now, Springfield needs a backfill for Sierra.

Thomas Spitz (Peoria Chiefs)

Another outfielder down

Thomas Spitz will not be part of the solution to the openings above, as the Palm Beach outfielder was placed on his club’s seven-day disabled list, retroactive to Friday.

Between 11 games at Springfield and 62 with Palm Beach, the 25-year old has a slash line of .264/.346/.362/.708. Spitz has 16 RBI, 37 runs scored and is 10-for-12 in base stealing attempts.

Woodford, too

Jake Woodford (Peoria Chiefs)

The Beach Birds are actually down two players, as the club also put starting pitcher Jake Woodford on the shelf for at least the next seven days – on the same schedule as Spitz.

In his most recent outing, Woodford only pitched one inning before Wednesday’s game was stopped by rain. For the season, TCN’s 13th-ranked Cardinals prospect has a 3.16 ERA over 15 starts. In 77 innings, the 20-year old right-hander has fanned 53 and issued 18 free passes.

For more

Check the always-free Roster Matrix here at The Cardinal Nation, for up-to-date roster details and every transaction made across the system all year long.

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Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2017 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Grichuk to St. Louis Cardinals Disabled List

(photo: Randal Grichuk/USA TODAY Sports Images)

St. Louis Cardinals press release

Jose Alberto Martinez (USA TODAY Sports Images)

The St. Louis Cardinals announced prior to tonight’s (Friday’s) series opener in Pittsburgh that they have recalled outfielder/first baseman José Martínez from Memphis (AAA) and placed outfielder Randal Grichuk (lower back strain) on the 10-day disabled list, retroactive to July 10.

Martínez opened the season on the Major League roster for the first time in his career.  The right-handed hitter is batting .280 (35-for-125) with five home runs and 17 RBI in 50 games with St. Louis.  The 28-year-old has made 26 starts and has two outfield assists, coming in back-to-back games April 17 & 18 vs. Pittsburgh.

The 6-foot-7, 225-pound Venezuela native was recently optioned by St. Louis on July 7, but did not appear in a game with Memphis. Martínez, who wears uniform no. 58, made his Major League debut against Pittsburgh on September 6, 2016 at PNC Park.

Randal Grichuk (USA TODAY Sports Images)

Grichuk, 25, is batting .215 (48-for-223) with nine home runs and 30 RBI in 61 games over two stints with St. Louis this season, ranking among club leaders in doubles (16, T2nd) and stolen bases (5, T2nd) and extra-base hits (25, 4th). Since rejoining the Cardinals on June 25, the Texas native is batting .196 (11-for-56) with five home runs, two doubles and 11 RBI in 15 games.

This marks the second time in Grichuk’s career missing time with the same injury. The outfielder was previously placed on the 15-day disabled list with a lower back strain during the 2015 season and missed 27 games from April 17-May 15.

Brian Walton’s take

This marks the third 25-man roster change coming out of the break for St. Louis, all disabled list-related. The others, previously announced, are Kolten Wong and Kevin Siegrist activated off the 10-day DL with Luke Weaver and Alex Mejia optioned to Memphis.

The only other minor league outfielders on the 40-man roster not already with St. Louis are Chad Huffman and Magneuris Sierra.

It would appear that Martinez will come off the bench with the regular outfield being Tommy Pham, Dexter Fowler and Stephen Piscotty. Though the situation bears watching, since Pham left the final game before the break early with right hip tightness that was deemed minor.

While Martinez can also play first base, Luke Voit would seem to have him blocked, even if Matt Carpenter is elsewhere.

For more

Check the always-free Roster Matrix here at The Cardinal Nation, for up-to-date roster details and every transaction made across the system all year long.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2017 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Siegrist Joins Wong in St. Louis

(photo: Kevin Siegrist/Jeff Curry/USA TODAY Sports Images)

St. Louis Cardinals press release

Kolten Wong (USA TODAY Sports Images)

The St. Louis Cardinals announced that they activated second baseman Kolten Wong from the 10-day disabled list on Monday, and activated left-handed pitcher Kevin Siegrist from the 10-day disabled list today (Thursday). To make room for both players on the St. Louis roster, infielder Alex Mejia and right-handed pitcher Luke Weaver were optioned to Memphis (AAA) following Sunday’s game.

Wong, 26, missed 24 games while on the D.L. with a right triceps strain (June 15-July 9). The left-handed hitting Wong recently made a rehab assignment with Springfield (AA), hitting .400 (6-for-15) with one home run, two doubles and four RBI in four games at second base. Prior to his injury, Wong was sporting a six-game hitting streak (9-20, .450) to raise his batting average to .301, which would rank tied for 15th in the National League but falls shy of the qualifying plate appearances.  Wong also missed 13 games (May 27-June 8) previously this season with a left elbow injury.

Kevin Siegrist (USA TODAY Sports Images)

Siegrist, 27, missed 17 games while on the D.L. with a cervical spine sprain (June 23-July 12). Siegrist recently made a pair of rehab outings with Springfield, tossing 1.0 inning with one strikeout in each appearance. This season, the left-hander is 1-1 with a 4.94 ERA (27.1 IP/15 ER), one save and 25 strikeouts in 31 games.

Mejia, who had his contract purchased on June 28, enjoyed his Major League debut in a Cardinals uniform. The right-handed utility infielder batted .214 (3-for-14) with one home run and two RBI in 10 games (three starts) while sporting a perfect fielding percentage at second base, third base and shortstop.

Weaver appeared in two games with St. Louis during his 2017 debut since his recall on July 3. The right-hander threw 3.0 combined scoreless innings in relief against Miami. His final outing was 2.0 shutout frames with a pair of strikeouts on July 5.

Brian Walton’s take

As the dates in the above release confirm, most of this news is several days old. The new item is the return of Siegrist, which was expected despite a less-than impressive two innings at Springfield, during which he gave up two runs on four hits and a walk. That makes for a .400 batting average against and a 9.00 ERA.

Here is what TCN’s Derek Shore witnessed from Siegrist at Hammons Field:

Weaver missed pitching in the Pacific Coast League All-Star Game due to his stint with St. Louis, but would probably make that trade any time.

With the return of Wong, the question of playing time on the Cardinals infield will move to the forefront. At first base, the solid play of rookie Luke Voit meant Matt Carpenter slipped over to second, which happens to be Wong’s only position. Jedd Gyorko seems locked into third base, so someone is going to lose out.

The status quo would suggest Voit will draw the short straw, but with the season now in its mathematical and practical second halves and the Cardinals not making headway in the division race, the team could be ready for change.

Minor league notes

Perez shelved

Juan Perez (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

On Thursday, the Peoria Chiefs placed starting pitcher Juan Perez on the seven-day disabled list due to a flexor strain.

In a bit of an unusual progression, after 20 appearances out of Palm Beach’s bullpen to open the season, the 22-year old Venezuelan was sent down to Peoria to rejoin its rotation exactly one month ago. It was a role Perez had previously filled for part of 2016.

In five starts for the Chiefs, the right-hander logged a solid 2.51 ERA, with 16 strikeouts and seven walks in 28 2/3 Midwest League innings. Perez last pitched on Sunday, July 9, going six innings, with his next turn scheduled Friday at Lake County.

The Class-A Chiefs were not immediately assigned a roster replacement or have announced a new Friday starter.

Montgomery returns

On Thursday, the Memphis Redbirds activated reliever Mark Montgomery off the temporarily inactive list. The right-hander was away from the club for the minimum three days, all of which was during the Triple-A all-star break, anyway. In other words, Montgomery did not miss any game action.

For more

Check the always-free Roster Matrix here at The Cardinal Nation, for up-to-date roster details and every transaction made across the system all year long.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2017 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cards Activate Fowler, Option out Martinez

(photo: Dexter Fowler/USA TODAY Sports Images)

St. Louis Cardinals press release

Dexter Fowler (USA TODAY Sports Images)

The St. Louis Cardinals announced prior to this evening’s (Friday’s) game that they have activated outfielder Dexter Fowler from the 10-day disabled list and optioned outfielder Jose Martinez to triple-A Memphis.

Fowler, 31, has missed 12 games on the D.L. with a right heel spur (June 25-July 6).  He ranks 2nd among St. Louis players with 40 runs scored and his 35 RBI rank 4th.  Fowler is currently batting .245 with 10 doubles, four triples and 13 home runs (2nd among STL hitters).

Martinez opened the season on the Major League roster for the first time in his career.  The right-handed hitter batted .280 with five home runs and 17 RBI this season and has appeared in 50 games.  Martinez has made 26 starts and has two outfield assists, coming in back-to-back games April 17 & 18 vs. Pittsburgh.  Martinez missed 17 games (May 7-28) earlier this season with a left groin injury.

Brian Walton’s take

Jose Alberto Martinez (USA TODAY Sports Images)

Interesting how times change. Back in March, Martinez was the Cardinals’ best hitter and when incumbent Tommy Pham did not hit, it was Martinez who came North with the team instead. Of course, that was spring training and these are real games.

Now Pham is entrenched as a semi-regular outfielder with Martinez the fifth option there and he is also not a viable choice at first base behind Luke Voit and Matt Carpenter. Hence, he was replaceable.

Memphis will need to remove a player from its active roster to make room for Martinez. Look for that transaction over the weekend when Martinez reports.

Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: Robertson Arrives in Peoria and Other News

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Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2017 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.