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Cover the Springfield Cardinals and Cardinals minor league pipeline for The Cardinal Nation | Freelance sports writer

Adam Wainwright Speaks from Springfield

photo: Adam Wainwright (Springfield Cardinals)

St. Louis Cardinals right-handed pitcher Adam Wainwright was in Springfield on Sunday in his continuing rehab from an elbow injury.

Adam Wainwright (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

Wainwright, along with pitcher Carlos Martinez and infielder Yairo Munoz, appeared in the S-Cards series-finale against Corpus Christi (HOU).

Wainwright allowed a double in the first and he went on to strike out four. His fastball topped out at 92 mph and he recorded all his strikeouts off his curveball.

Following his second rehab appearance, Wainwright spoke to the local media in Springfield, discussing how he felt and much more.

Media Member: Looked pretty good today. How did you feel out there?

Adam Wainwright: “It was good. I commanded the ball a little better than last time (in Palm Beach). My breaking stuff was good. I have got to hone in on my heater a little bit, but my arm felt great. I love pitching. I love getting out there and competing. It’s my favorite thing in the world.”

Media Member: What were the goals coming into this start and did you feel you achieved them as you get closer to getting back to St. Louis?

Adam Wainwright: “I’m just doing what I’m supposed to at this point. I’m incrementally getting better and better each time out. That has always been the goal. That was the goal. That still is the goal. So, next time I pitch in Arkansas on Wednesday, hopefully we get a little bit better from there too.”

Media Member: Has St. Louis told you what your role is going to be this season?

Adam Wainwright: “No, but if you hear, let me know. I would love to know myself. I think they are waiting to see kind of what they are going to need, honestly. They are playing such good baseball right now. You don’t know come in and mess up the mojo, but also if you come in and help the team win, then they are going to use you.

“Hopefully, eventually, they think I can help them win and we will go out there and compete.”

Media Member: Is that kind of tough to have to be out here and watch them play so well?

Adam Wainwright: “That is the hand I was dealt. I had an injury I didn’t want to have this year. I wanted to go out and make every start and be strong this year. That is not what I was dealt with, so why not make the most of it? There is no reason to be pouting around. You might as well be a good teammate and be a good teammate for each step along the way also.”

Media Member: How excited are you to get back there and get into that clubhouse and be a part of a team that has been surging now for so long?

Adam Wainwright: “It’s fun to be a part of. I got to go in yesterday for about 30 minutes to do some treatment, say hello, kiss some babies, shake some hands, and turn right around and fly out. It is fun to watch those young guys play. They are inspiring all of us to get better. It’s just so exciting.”

Media Member: What was it like playing back here in Springfield?

Adam Wainwright: “It’s always a great crowd. It’s Cardinal country here in Springfield. I got up here yesterday and had a great time in the city. We went to the Pineapple Whip. We went to the City Butcher and we went to the most amazing aquarium I have ever seen in my entire life at the Bass Pro Shops over there. Johnny Morris’ aquarium is unlike anything I have ever seen. The girls had a great time. I’m glad to be here and it was good to pitch in front of the crowd.”

Media Member: What about the team – what have you seen in these young guys?

Adam Wainwright: “I haven’t seen much – only a couple of innings. But everybody seemed to be doing pretty well. It’s fun for me to see Yairo and Carlos almost getting back, too. Those guys are great competitors and good big league hitters and pitchers. I think we have an incredibly deep farm system.

“I just came from Palm Beach. I think there is a couple of superstars in the wait down there and we know there is a couple down here as well. I think the future is very bright for the Cardinals.”

Media Member: Do you feel like you had a taste of being back in St. Louis, having Yairo and Carlos here?

Adam Wainwright: “It’s good to see familiar faces, for sure. I know a lot of these guys. Sam Tewes and Jeremy Martinez are in a bible reading plan with me. I know a lot of these guys off the field also. We have a good time.”

Media Member: So, what happens when Matt Carpenter runs out of salsa? Are you going to plant him a bigger garden?

Adam Wainwright: “No, no. He won’t run out of salsa. He makes three jars a day. He is not going to run out anytime soon unless the grocery store runs out of groceries.”

Media Member: Your off-speed stuff really seemed to be working for you today. Is that pretty good progress for you going forward?

Adam Wainwright: “My curveball was the hardest for me to throw before I went on the DL. That is why I went on the DL. I could find my way around an average fastball that was somewhat located, but I couldn’t spin the ball. That has always been my strength, so when I can’t spin the ball, I need to let someone else who can and step in.

“My breaking ball is probably better than it has been in years. It is really fun to throw it.”

Media Member: Now the next outing coming up – is the plan for you to start or come out of the bullpen?

Adam Wainwright: “Great question. I don’t know. I’m going to worry about that when the time comes. I’m assuming I’m starting it. I don’t know that at all. I could be pitching the last three (rehab games). We’ll see. Not sure.”


For More

Catch Derek Shore’s in-depth Springfield Cardinals Notebooks, posted each Thursday morning all season long, exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation.

Not yet a member?

Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.

© 2018 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Eight Cardinals Named in BA’s Best Tools Survey

photo: Tyler O’Neill (Memphis Redbirds)

On Friday, Baseball America announced its annual Best Tools in the Minors, which surveys managers from all 10 full-season minor leagues about the top players in a variety of categories.

The St. Louis Cardinals organization is well-represented, with eight players named.

Memphis’ best tools contingent

Dakota Hudson (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

From the reigning Pacific Coast League Champions and current American Southern Division leaders, five Triple-A Memphis players are featured in BA’s Best Tools survey.

Slugger Tyler O’Neill was selected as the best power prospect in the PCL. The 23-year old Canadian leads the circuit with 26 long balls despite only playing in 64 games at Triple-A this season. Many in the industry give him double-plus grades for his power potential.

On the pitching side, Dakota Hudson was tabbed as the best overall pitching prospect after posting a league-best 13 wins and 2.50 ERA at Memphis. With a heavy sinker and three other quality offerings to complement it, Hudson has the makings of a mid-rotation horse for the Cardinals in the not too distant future.

Austin Gomber (Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

Owner of the best breaking pitch in the PCL went to a familiar lefty now thriving in St. Louis, Austin Gomber. Gomber went 7-3 with a 3.42 ERA through 12 games (11 starts) at Memphis this season, averaging over 10 strikeouts per nine innings. The southpaw’s 12-6 curveball draws consistent plus grades from scouts.

Known more for his offensive prowess, Memphis corner infielder Rangel Ravelo was named the best defensive first baseman by opposing managers. Ravelo is the Cardinals newer-version of Luke Voit.

Perhaps the most tooled-up prospect in the Cardinals organization is Memphis outfielder Adolis Garcia, who may have the best throwing arm among all minor league outfielders. Not surprisingly, he was named as having the best outfield arm in the PCL.

The rest of the Cardinals best tools contingent

Evan Mendoza (Andrew Miller/Palm Beach Cardinals)

While Memphis made up most of the Cardinals best tool players, there were some other notable selections announced on Friday.

Evan Mendoza was the lone representative from Double-A Springfield. The former NC State product was named the Texas League best defensive third baseman as well as the Florida State League best defender at the hot corner. The questions surrounding whether or not he will stick at third base coming into this season seem to have come and gone.

Now, Mendoza will need to prove he can handle upper-level pitching as a 22-year old.

Austin Warner (Andrew Miller/Palm Beach Cardinals)

In addition, Austin Warner was tabbed as having the best control in the Florida State League. The non-drafted lefty, who has shot onto the scene this season, posted an impressive 77-to-13 strikeout to walk ratio over 74 innings hurled at High-A Palm Beach. He has since risen to Memphis and is holding his own.

Warner has big-league stuff with an outside shot at getting a cup of coffee in time.

To round out the Cardinals representation in BA’s best tools, former Low-A Peoria infielder, now Palm Beach, second baseman Irving Lopez was named the best defensive second baseman in the MWL by BA. Though not necessarily a prospect, Lopez projects as a very good organizational player.


For more – Catch Derek Shore’s in-depth Springfield Cardinals Notebook, posted each Thursday morning all season long, exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation.

Not yet a member?

Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.

© 2018 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Springfield Cardinals Notebook – 2018 Week 19

The Double-A Cardinals struggled to a 2-4 record that kept them in last place. The offense is not scoring consistently and the relief woes have resurfaced. Andrew Knizner has a 14-game hitting streak and newcomer Casey Meisner allowed just three runs in 12 innings pitched.

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The Cardinal Nation July Pitcher of the Month

photo: Alex Fagalde (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

This is the first part of The Cardinal Nation’s monthly two-part series as we name our Players and Pitchers of the Month across the St. Louis Cardinals organization. While the Cardinals themselves recognize their top players as well, we undertake our own independent analysis unencumbered by the organization’s selection criteria.

Let’s get right to it with a look at the list of July system-wide pitching leaders.

Fagalde earns TCN’s top pitching honors

While a number of starters in the Cardinals system had a strong July, one hurler distinguished himself from the rest, utilizing a terrific stretch of pitching to earn a much-deserved promotion.

Alex Fagalde (State College Spikes)

Our July Pitcher of the Month is Class-A Peoria starter Alex Fagalde, who should also have a strong case to claim the still-to-be-announced Cardinals organization and Midwest League Pitcher of the Month honors.

Among starters with at least 25 innings pitched, Fagalde led the Cardinals system with a miniscule 0.90 ERA, finishing with the lowest WHIP of 0.73 and ranking fourth with 29 punchouts through 30 innings hurled for the Chiefs.

“Over the course of the season, I’ve started to really trust my stuff and I’ve gotten away from trying to just touch every corner of the zone,” Fagalde told MiLB.com. “I’m just trying to get it in the zone and get it over the middle and you know what — if it gets hit, it gets hit. But more than anything, I’m just attacking hitters and also trying to keep the pitch count down.

“I feel like the fastball has worked really well for me, but I think what’s setting that up is being able to throw off-speed pitches for strikes. I think my curveball has probably been the biggest secondary pitch for me. When I throw that for a strike, it kind of opens the top of the strike zone for my fastball.”

The Cardinals 2017 30th round pick, who started the year in extended spring training, was assigned to Peoria on May 18. He was sensational in May and June, posting ERAs of 2.12 (17 IP) and 2.08 (30.1 IP), respectively.

Then came July.

Over five starts, Fagalde allowed just three earned runs and none over his final 18 innings pitched. His best start was his final outing with Peoria in which he struck out 10 batters over seven one-hit frames. That earned him a promotion to High-A Palm Beach on August 1. He tossed six shutout innings in his Florida State League debut on Thursday night, extending his scoreless inning streak to 31.

“Alex is a guy that if you look at his stuff and if you look at the radar gun – it’s not going to impress you,” Peoria manager Chris Swauger told The Cardinal Nation. “If you watch him pitch, not one thing is going to overwhelm you about what he does. If you see everything in context and how it relates to the other, you understand why he is so effective.

“His fastball, his curveball, and his split all play very well off each other because he throws them with the same delivery and arm slot. It is very hard for a hitter to differentiate between them. He gets a lot of swings and misses because he is able to work up and down in the zone.

“He is a shining example of a guy that has figured out what type of pitcher he needs to be. He has embraced it and attack with his weapons that he has which on the surface aren’t the best but he is able to compete with them and attack guys with them. He is just able to have a lot of success because he knows what he is doing with them.”

Overall on the season, Fagalde has compiled a 7-3 overall record with a sparkling 1.51 ERA over 14 games. The 24-year old has posted an 83-to-18 strikeout to walk ratio over 83 ⅓ innings pitched between Peoria and Palm Beach this season. However, given his age, he will need to prove he can pitch as effectively in the higher levels first before he is a sure prospect.


Honorable Mentions

Jake Dahlberg (Johnson City Cardinals)

Runner-up to Fagalde is State College lefty Jake Dahlberg, who finished second in the system with a 1.32 ERA among those qualified. The 24-year old also had the second lowest WHIP (0.94) and was third in strikeouts (31 over 34 innings pitched). With that performance, Dahlberg earned a promotion to Peoria, replacing Fagalde in the Chiefs rotation.

“He has got an idea of how to pitch,” State College manager Joe Kruzel said. “He pitches inside. He moves his fastball around. He keeps hitters off balance with his changeup. When he first got to extended, it first looked like he was going to be out of the bullpen and then situations happened.

“He has really taken off and run with this starting (role). Pretty much you feel anytime he goes out there, you feel you are going to get five-six-to-seven innings out of him and still have a chance to win the game.”

Another pitcher worthy of mention is DSL Cardinals Blue starter Hector Soto, who posted a 1.33 ERA in five starts. The 19-year old Mexican right-hander struck out 26 batters and issued only three walks through 27 innings. This is impressive for any teenager, as first and foremost throwing strikes is one of the bigger developmental hurdles young arms have to face in complex leagues.

Julio Puello

From one DSL Cardinals Blue standout starter to another, 19-year old Dominican Julio Puello had a strong month of July as well, boasting a 1.73 ERA over five starts. The right-hander had a 24-to-6 strikeout to walk ratio through 26 innings of work.

Other honorable mentions are State College’s Jim Voyles (2.40 ERA over 30 innings), GCL Cardinals right-hander Brian Pirela (2.02 ERA over six games), Palm Beach righty starter Jake Walsh (2.62 ERA over 34 ⅓ innings), and Springfield’s Anthony Shew (3.31 ERA over 32 ⅔ innings pitched).

Meanwhile, Peoria starter Angel Rondon had four impressive starts in his first taste of the Midwest League. He went 3-0 with a 3.08 ERA, striking out 29 batters while issuing only six free passes over 26 ⅓ innings on the month. His teammate Alvaro Seijas had a 3.30 ERA over 30 innings pitched, so things are trending in the right direction for him as well.

One of the more highly-rated prospects, Connor Jones, had a 2.84 ERA over 31 ⅔ innings between Springfield and Memphis. Although, his strikeout to walk ratio was 22-to-22, which obviously isn’t ideal. Jake Woodford also had a decent July, posting a 3.52 ERA in four starts between Triple-A (three) and Double-A (one).


Coming soon: The Cardinal Nation July Player of the Month

Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: Memphis Redbirds Notebook – 2018 Week 17

Not yet a member?

Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.

© 2018 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cardinals Place Martinez On 7-Day DL, Recall O’Neill and Webb

photo: Yadier Molina and Carlos Martinez (Evan Habeeb/USA TODAY Sports)

St. Louis Cardinals press release

The St. Louis Cardinals announced today that they have recalled rookie outfielder Tyler O’Neill and left-handed reliever Tyler Webb from Memphis (AAA).   The team also announced that right-handed pitcher Carlos Martinez (right shoulder strain) has been placed on the 10-day disabled list.

O’Neill, who is batting .311 with 26 home runs (1st in Pacific Coast League) and 61 RBI at Memphis, appeared in 19 games with the Cardinals earlier this season, hitting three home runs.

Webb made his Cardinals debut on Sunday night with 2.0 scoreless innings of relief against Chicago.  He’s appeared in 14 career games between the New York Yankees, Milwaukee, San Diego and St.  Louis.

O’Neill wears uniform no. 41 and Webb wears no. 30.

Derek  Shore’s commentary

The subtraction was expected, but the additions were unknown until Tuesday due to the Tommy Pham trade.

This is Martinez’s third stint this season after leaving his start early last night against Colorado. He is expected to miss up to three to four starts as of now, per reports out of St. Louis.

Meanwhile, Webb got his first taste of the I55-Shuttle. After tossing two scoreless innings in relief against Chicago in his MLB debut, the lefty was promptly optioned to Triple-A Memphis on Monday before returning 24 hours later.

Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: Gulf Coast League Cardinals Notebook – 2018 Week 6

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Cardinals Acquire Two Prospects For Mercado From Tribe

photo: Oscar Mercado (Springfield Cardinals FANatic)

St. Louis Cardinals press release

Conner Capel (Lynchburg Hillcats)

The St. Louis Cardinals announced this afternoon that they have acquired minor league outfielders Conner Capel and Jhon Torres from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Memphis (AAA) outfielder Oscar Mercado.

Capel, 21, a left-handed hitting centerfielder, was batting .261 with 6 home runs, 44 RBI and 15 stolen bases in 89 games for Lynchburg (A) this season, earning Carolina League All-Star honors.   The 6-1, 185-pound Katy, Texas native was a 5th round draft selection by the Indians in 2016.  He’s the son of former Major League pitcher Mike Capel.

Torres, 18, has appeared in 27 games for the Arizona Rookie League Indians this season, compiling a .273 batting mark with 4 HR’s and 16 RBI.   The 6-4, 200-pound right-handed hitting Torres is a native of Sincelejo, Colombia.

Mercado, 23, was batting .285 with 8 HR’s and 42 RBI with 31 stolen bases for Memphis.  He was the Cardinals 2nd round draft selection in 2013.

Derek Shore’s commentary

On Tuesday, the Cardinals traded from their organizational strength, dealing Mercado to the Indians to help address a weakness in the system – left-handed bats.

For Mercado, he was known mostly as an all-glove no-bat shortstop for four seasons and lost most of his prospect status as a result. A year later, he converted to the outfield in late 2016 and took off with the bat in 2017, hitting .287/.321/.428 last season in Double-A and .285/.351/.408 this year in Triple-A, resurrecting himself as a prospect.

From one of the finest and productive outfielders in the Texas League a year ago, Mercado adjusted well to Triple-A where his speed continued to stand out and his plate discipline improved. This trade should also speak to the emergence of TCN’s No. 31 prospect Lane Thomas, who has intrigued many scouts. He has legit power and can play center field, if needed.

Mercado was assigned to the Indians’ Triple-A Colombus club.

On the Cardinals’ end of the trade, Capel entered this year as Baseball America’s No. 15 prospect in the Indians’ system. While he has put together solid production in the lower levels, scouts question his exact profile as a prospect. He has played mostly center field this season after spending most of 2017 in right. Capel also doesn’t have the plus speed best-suited for up-the-middle, though if he can tap into his left-handed power like he did in 2017, he would fit well in right.

Capel has been assigned to High-A Palm Beach.

The Indians signed Torres out of Colombia in 2016, and he made his U.S. debut in the Arizona League this year. A 6-foot-4, 199 pounder, is described as a physically strong specimen with raw power that he has shown off. Torres has mostly played right field in pro ball, and that’s where he profiles best, according to reports.

Torres will report to the Gulf Coast League Cardinals.

Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: Gulf Coast League Cardinals Notebook – 2018 Week 6

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© 2018 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cardinals Trade Pham to Rays for Minors Trio

photo: Tommy Pham (Scott Kane/USA TODAY Sports Images)

St. Louis Cardinals press release

Justin Williams (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

The St. Louis Cardinals announced this (Tuesday) morning a four-player trade with the Tampa Bay Rays, acquiring outfielder Justin Williams, left-handed pitcher Genesis Cabrera and right-handed pitcher Roel Ramirez in exchange for outfielder Tommy Pham and International Cap Space.

Williams, 22, is a left-handed hitting outfielder who was batting .258 with 8 home runs and 46 RBI for the Durham Bulls (AAA), where earlier this season he was named an International League All-Star.  The 6-2, 215 pound Williams hails from Houma, Louisiana.  Williams, a former 2nd round draft pick by Arizona (52nd overall) in 2013, made his Major League debut earlier this month.

Genesis Cabrera (Montgomery Biscuits)

Cabrera, 21, has fashioned a 7-6 mark with a 4.12 ERA in 21 games (20 starts) for Montgomery of the Southern League (AA), striking out 124 batters in 113.2 innings pitched while limiting the opposition to .218 batting mark.  The 6-1, 170-pound native of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic was named to the Southern League All-Star team last month.

Ramirez, 23, was 3-1 with a 3.32 ERA in 26 games as a reliever for the Montgomery Biscuits, fanning 46 batters in 40.2 innings.  The 6-1, 210-pound Ramirez is from Laredo, Texas.

Pham, 30, a member of the Cardinals organization since being drafted in 2006, was batting .248 this season with 14 home runs and 41 RBI.


Derek Shore’s take

The headliner in the Pham trade, Williams was originally acquired from the D-Backs in the Jeremy Hellickson trade. The left-handed hitting outfielder has always flashed loud tools, but he has never quite put it all together. His best tool is his plus arm strength as well as above-average raw power that has yet to translate into games.

Still developing as a defender in the outfield, Williams could become an average defensive outfielder but needs to add lift to his swing to begin tapping into his true power potential. All in all, though, he profiles as an everyday corner guy. If that doesn’t pan out, the fallback is a backup outfield role.

It is also worth noting Williams essentially takes the spot of Mercado on the 40-man roster.

Roel Ramirez (Charlotte Stone Crabs)

The second piece of the four-player trade is Cabrera, who was said to have some of the liveliest stuff in the Rays’ system prior to the deal. Although his control and command need refinement, the lefty throws low-to-mid 90s fastball with riding life coupled with a slider that flashes plus this year. Scouts are split on Cabrera’s profile with the possibility of making it as a set-up man or mid-rotation starter if all comes together.

To round out the trade, Ramirez is a relief-only type prospect. According to reports, he brings an “explosive” mid-90s fastball to the table with a slider and split-finger fastball. He has the ML profile of a lower-leverage reliever.

It appears Williams will be assigned to Memphis which leaves them down a player following the Oscar Mercado trade. Meanwhile, Cabrera and Ramirez have been sent to Springfield.


Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: Gulf Coast League Cardinals Notebook – 2018 Week 6

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© 2018 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Cardinals add Budaska and Greer as New Hitting Coaches

photo: George Greer, Oliver Marmol, Jose Oquendo (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Along with the dismissal of manager Mike Matheny, the St. Louis Cardinals relieved hitting coach John Mabry and assistant hitting coach Bill Mueller of their duties Saturday evening. On Sunday morning, their replacements were announced – long-time minor league hitting gurus Mark Budaska (Triple-A Memphis hitting coach) and George Greer (minor league hitting coordinator).

Budaska and Greer, who are expected to join St, Louis’ coaching staff after the All-Star break, will be put to the task of improving the performance of a Cardinals offense that ranks near the middle of the pack in a number of major offensive categories, including batting average (.244, 16th in MLB), on-base percentage (.314, 20th in MLB), slugging percentage (.319, 19th in MLB), and wRC+ (94, 16th in MLB).

Mark Budaska (Memphis Redbirds)

Budaska, 65, has spent 11 seasons as hitting coach for the Redbirds. Before that, he spent six years in the Boston Red Sox system, including a three-year stint with Triple-A Pawtucket. He is well-regarded for his background in biomechanics and has helped mold a number of current and former Cardinals hitters, including Matt Carpenter, Kolten Wong, Jon Jay, David Freese, Randal Grichuk, Daniel Descalso, Matt Adams, Stephen Piscotty, Jose Martinez and Tommy Pham.

The former switch-hitting outfielder played for 10 years in the Oakland Athletics organization, including stints with the big league club in 1978 and 1981. Budaska, who now resides in Hawaii, appeared in 13 games with the A’s, collecting six hits in 36 at-bats with three doubles and two RBI.

He began his professional playing career in 1973 with Lewiston in the Northwest League after signing as an amateur free agent, and made his major league debut on June 6, 1979.

This past season, Budaska was instrumental in helping Memphis to their first Pacific Coast League championship since 2009. That team was spearheaded by a high-powered offense which included Pham, Paul DeJong, Harrison Bader, and Luke Voit at various points. He also served as assistant hitting coach for the big league Cardinals for several weeks in the first half of 2017 while Mueller was on personal leave before returning to Memphis to finish the season.

Budaska, who studied kinesiology at a California college before baseball came calling, stresses the importance of “balance, “rhythm”, and “timing” to his hitters.

“I teach loads,” Budaska told the St. Louis Post Dispatch last summer. “It’s not swings. If you’re balanced, you have a good swing. If you’re not balanced, I don’t care how strong you are or what your bat speed is, you don’t have a swing. Let’s build a load and let the athleticism take them up from there.”

While Budaska has been credited for how the hitters perform in the minors and how major league hitters have done when they are sent to Memphis to reset in the past, Greer, 71, is the architect per se. He has been through it all inside the game of both collegiate and professional baseball over the last five decades.

George Greer (Johnson City Cardinals)

As a player, Greer topped out at the Cardinals Triple-A Tulsa Oilers, then managed by Hall of Fame pitcher Warren Spahn. The outfielder and first baseman’s minor league playing career was highlighted by a 21-homer season in 1970 for the Modesto Reds (Cardinals High-A affiliate) and four years prior – Greer thrived in the Pan American Games to help the US National Team triumph over Cuban National Team for the first time in Games history.

After calling it a career in 1971, Greer began his first of over 30 years of coaching at the college level – beginning with the University of Connecticut-Avery Point in 1972. Greer then had stints with Davidson College from 1981 to 1987 and his final collegiate stop, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, a program he led to 608-382-4 cumulative record over 17 seasons.

Ever since, Greer has worked in professional baseball, most recently for the New York Mets in a nine-year stint as a minor league hitting coach. He joined the Cardinals as minor league offensive strategist and also served as Johnson City Cardinals hitting coach in 2015.

A year later, Greer took the reins of minor league hitting coordinator, his assignment for the last three years. In his role, he has received praise from Cardinals officials for his work with a number of Cardinals hitting prospects, particularly with the resurgence of Oscar Mercado last year.

In one of his most recent cases, Greer has worked with Carson Kelly on his hitting, since the catcher was optioned back to Triple-A on June 4. Over the last few weeks, Kelly has been one of the hottest hitters in the organization.

During Sunday morning’s press conference, interim manager Mike Shildt disclosed that the bench coach position will be “fluid” rather than name his specific replacement. Cardinals President of Baseball Ops John Mozeliak cited Greer and Jose Oquendo as two who will likely help fill that void, even without the title.

“I am a hitting coach, but I am also a baseball coach,” Greer said in an interview with Memphis broadcaster Steve Selby last summer. “I have coached every position throughout the years. This has been a wonderful experience because as an offensive strategist, you really don’t have a lane. You have dots rather than solid lines, so you can cross over and people respect that because of my age.”

Greer broke down his job further when asked to elaborate.

“Well, what I have done is given us a plan of looking fastball and looking away, adjusting to the off-speed pitch and then doing all the mental things you were taught playing baseball,” he said. “Move the runner along. Get a good pitch to hit and drive a ball to center field with the bases-loaded, so you don’t hit into a double-play. All those kinds of little things that makes runs and causes run creation throughout the season.”

As of now, it is unclear who will replace Budaska as Memphis’ hitting coach. Double-A Springfield hitting coach Jobel Jimenez is among those who could move up and fill the vacancy or the organization could use its fourth coach to help fill the gap.


For more – Catch Derek Shore’s in-depth Springfield Cardinals Notebook, posted each Thursday morning all season long, exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation.

Not yet a member?

Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.

© 2018 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.