Cardinals Add Martinez and Helsley, Cut Gregerson and Leone

photo: Carlos Martinez (Benny Sieu/USA TODAY Sports Images)

St. Louis Cardinals press release

The St. Louis Cardinals announced prior to tonight’s (Friday, May 17) series opener against the Texas Rangers, that they have activated right-handed pitcher Carlos Martínez from the 10-day Injured List and recalled rookie right-handed pitcher Ryan Helsley from Memphis (AAA).  The team also announced that right-handed pitcher Luke Gregerson has been designated for assignment and right-handed pitcher Dominic Leone has been optioned to Memphis (AAA).

Carlos Martinez (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

Martínez, 27, has been on the Injured List all season (right shoulder cuff strain) and recently completed an injury rehabilitation assignment that included five relief appearances that totaled 6.2 innings between Peoria (A), Memphis (AAA) and Springfield (AA).   He allowed one run on five hits, walked four and struck out six.

Martínez, 54-38, 3.37 ERA career, made 15 relief appearances at the end of last season, going 2-0 with a 1.47 ERA (18.1 IP), five saves and 19 strikeouts.  He pitched multiple innings in five of the 15 relief outings.

Ryan Helsley (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

Helsley, 24, will be making his second stint with the Cardinals, after having been previously recalled on April 16.  The 6-2, 230-pound Oklahoma native made three relief appearances with the Cardinals, totaling 6.1 innings pitched with just three hits allowed and seven strikeouts for a 2.84 ERA.  Each of his three appearances, including his Major League debut on April 16, were of two innings or more.

Since returning to Memphis following an option an April 29, Helsley has appeared in five games (including one start) and has gone 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA (10.2 IP/4 ER), striking out 12.   He was unscored upon in his four relief outings, covering 8.1 innings pitched, including 1.2 innings last night at San Antonio.

Leone, 27, appeared in 20 games for St. Louis this season, going 0-0 with a 8.02 ERA (21.1 IP) and 27 strikeouts.

Gregerson, 35, began the 2019 season on the Injured List and appeared in six games, allowing five runs, following his return to the active roster on May 4.  He’s 35-36, 3.15 ERA and 66 saves in 646 career games pitched.

Martínez wears uniform no. 18 and Helsley wears uniform no. 56.

Brian Walton’s take

Dominic Leone (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

Two of the big hopes to rejuvenate the 2018 bullpen are removed from the roster the same day.

Leone, acquired from Toronto as the cornerstone of the Randal Grichuk trade in January 2018, was thought of as a potential closer candidate at the time, but struggled with injury last season. He began 2019 strongly, but was knocked around in his recent outings. Leone has one minor league option year remaining.

(Interestingly, the other player acquired in the Grichuk deal, Conner Greene, is starting against the Double-A Springfield Cardinals for Northwest Arkansas (KC) on Saturday evening. He was lost in a waiver claim last November.)

Luke Gregerson (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

While some are concerned about the money sunk in Gregerson’s contract, to me that is not the big issue. Instead, he had to be pitched in major league games, 23 of them to be precise, during which the team went 8-15.

To be fair, he had not earned higher leverage opportunities, but how could he be counted upon in pressure situations? This season, Gregerson yielded runs in three of six outings since a very long minor league rehab tour that took the entire allowable month, basically during April. Certainly, he had more than enough time to get ready.

On the money side, the total contract commitment by St. Louis to Gregerson is $11 million – $5 million each for 2018 and 2019 and $1 million to buy out the club’s 2020 option.

Some may think the Cardinals will be cutting their ties with the man they initially suggested would be their 2018 closer by releasing him, but that contract commitment may continue to be the primary reason Gregerson remains with the Cardinals organization.

Because his contract would follow him on waivers, he isn’t going to be claimed if placed there and probably they Cardinals cannot get anything for him in trade. If he opts for free agency rather than accept a minor league outright, which would be his right, he would forfeit the remainder of his contract money due.  Instead, he may swallow his pride and join Chasen Shreve in Memphis to keep the paycheck coming and try to earn his way back up to St. Louis.

A side point is that for the first time in months, St. Louis’ 40-man roster is below the maximum. This is because a DFA’ed player is removed from the roster immediately and during the seven day period the team is allowed to decide his future (trade, release, outright).

(From TCN’s Paul Ivice: Gregerson’s average two-seamer in 86.4 mph, compared with the MLB average of 92.6, per

Gregerson’s spin rate of 2,177 rpm is close to the 2,204 MLB average, but if you aren’t throwing hard, you must have pinpoint location, and the 90.3 average exit velocity on Gregerson’s two-seamers, compared with 89.0 league average, indicates his pitches are much too hittable.)

Martinez’ rehab stint, which began in Peoria, then to Memphis, and to Springfield, has been well documented. There have been too many walks – four plus two hit batters in 6 2/3 innings – but it remains to be seen if that was just rust.

His situation for the second consecutive year remains a curiosity. Martinez is comfortable pitching in relief, but not starting. He is being paid for and expected to perform in the latter role, but there have bee questions about his preparation and readiness to pitch.

Instead of rejoining the rotation – because of his shoulder situation, coupled with Jordan Hicks’ growth into the closer job – it appears that Martinez will become one of MLB’s most highly-paid set up men at $11.5 million per season. His contract commitment runs through 2021 plus two option years that can be bought out.

Helsley, The Cardinal Nation’s sixth-ranked prospect in April, has been working in long relief for Memphis since his MLB debut earlier this season. Perhaps it could change in 2020, but for now at least, his role seems to be in relief.

For more

To track the Cardinals’ 25- and 40-man rosters as well as all players in the system by position and level, check out the Roster Matrix, always free and updated here at The Cardinal Nation. Also included is every player transaction across the full organization all year long.

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