Cardinals Add Randy Arozarena and Yadier Molina

photo: Randy Arozarena (Frank Ramirez/The Cardinal Nation)

The St. Louis Cardinals are promoting prospect outfielder Randy Arozarena from Memphis, activating catcher Yadier Molina from the injured list, placing outfielder Jose Martinez on the IL and optioning catcher Andrew Knizner to Memphis.

St. Louis Cardinals press release

The St. Louis Cardinals optioned catcher Andrew Knizner (KIZZ-ner) to their Triple-A Memphis affiliate following Sunday afternoon’s game with Pittsburgh. Prior to Tuesday’s game at Kansas City, the Cardinals will activate catcher Yadier Molina (yah-DEE-air) from the 10-day Injured List (right thumb tendon strain), place outfielder José Martínez on the 10-day Injured List with a right AC joint sprain and select outfielder Randy Arozarena (ahh-ROW-sa-ray-na) from Memphis.

Arozarena, 24, an international free agent out of Havana, Cuba, has played in 80 minor league games between Springfield (AA) and Memphis this season and has batted .349 with 10 home runs, 42 RBI, 23 doubles, three triples and has stolen 16 bases. He was named the Cardinals Minor League Player of the Month in June and July and became the third Memphis Redbirds player to ever hit for the cycle coming on June 26 against Oklahoma City. Currently, Arozarena has reached base safely in his last 37 straight starts and is slashing .368/.442/.568 in 52 games at Memphis. Arozarena has played in 319 career minor league games in the Cardinals organization.

Randy Arozarena

Molina, 37, was placed on the Injured List on July 8 and has missed 28 Major League games, which including a minor league rehabilitation assignment to Memphis and Springfield. The nine-time All-Star and Rawlings Gold Glove winner was 3-for-20 with a home run, six RBI in eight games during his rehab. He was batting .261 with 4 HR and 36 RBI in 71 games when he was placed on the I.L. The Cardinals went 17-11 in his absence.

Yadier Molina

Martínez, 31, was removed from Sunday afternoon’s game against Pittsburgh in the 5th inning after colliding with the right field wall in pursuit of a fly ball. He was batting .266 with 10 HR and 40 RBI in 118 games this season.

Jose Martinez

Knizner, 24, played in 11 games since his most recent recall and hit safely in his last eight starts.

Andrew Knizner

Arozarena will wear uniform No. 66.

Brian Walton’s take

The intrigue here is about playing time going forward.

However, that is not the case behind the plate. While veteran Matt Wieters did a credible job filling in, Molina will almost certainly return to daily play.

The Cardinals had an open 40-man roster spot following the removal of reliever Adalberto Mejia last week, which they used on Arozarena.

It will be interesting to see how playing time is shared among the outfielders. Veterans Marcell Ozuna and Dexter Fowler will likely continue to be in the lineup almost every day, with right field potentially open – that is, unless manager Mike Shildt continues to play infielder Tommy Edman out there as he did in four starts this past week.

Then there is the question of Lane Thomas, who seemed to have been given his one farewell start on Sunday after receiving no starts and just five plate appearances in his  first 10 days on St. Louis’ roster this time up. Thomas stepped up in a huge way Sunday, plating five with a triple and a grand slam and throwing out a Pirates runner at home plate in his lone start.

Lane Thomas

The injury to Martinez enabled the Cardinals to avoid an uncomfortable situation, while temporarily creating roster room for both Thomas and Arozarena. But who will play – and when?

While the Cardinals have two upcoming games with the designated hitter in Kansas City, that is it.

Both Arozarena and Thomas had been hitting well for Memphis and are well-balanced players. Randy is a better pure hitter, but Thomas has more power. Both can play center field as well as the corners, though Thomas had the priority in the past. Both are projected as reserve outfielders eventually.

Does Thomas’ lack of use suggest the same is ahead for Arozarena – late-game defensive insertions plus a few stray at-bats? Or do the Cards see the Cuban as a better prospect? In our July rankings here at The Cardinal Nation, Thomas was seventh and Arozarena ninth.

Looking out a week or more at the potential landscape ahead, the road map does not get clearer.

Tyler O’Neill is progressing toward a return from his IL stint, and still seems to have the highest ceiling of all the Cardinals’ 40-man outfield candidates. However, the prognosis for Martinez is unknown. Will O’Neill resume his audition for 2020 or be shuffled into the background?

Rosters will expand in just under three weeks, with Harrison Bader also likely to rejoin St. Louis for the final month.

But back to the here and now. With the ability to start only three outfielders on any given day, how will Shildt distribute playing time, starting on Tuesday, and then with no designated hitter on Friday against Cincinnati and beyond?

Stay tuned!

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