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.

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