Re-Shuffling the Cards

Monday nights have been dedicated to two things in my house for the last calendar year. I made the decision to finish my degree 15+ years after graduating from high school, and my school weeks start on Tuesday. So much like most former reporters, deadlines have become my curse with the Cardinals my support system. It makes nights without St. Louis baseball tough, but we here at the Conclave soldier on with plenty of notes for the last Monday in June.

Two weeks have passed since this post with a few pitching changes coming at each level of the organization. Today’s news of Deryk Hooker getting the promotion to Memphis in place of Maikel Cleto, who was claimed off of waivers by the Royals, means that Springfield will be looking for closer number four once the Texas League All-Star break is over. The first two, Keith Butler and Michael Blazek, made Cleto expendable and freed up a roster spot in process.

Victor Marte will soon be on the way out  as well, as his stats for the Redbirds are lacking to say the least. He has been scored on the last three times out, with each appearance featuring multiple base runners. Blazek recently made his big league debut and should make things interesting for Matheny and Mozeliak once Fernando Salas finishes his rehab stint next month. There is far from a bullpen logjam, however, given the next 30 days will surely kick the rumor mill into warp speed.

In addition to Salas, Mitchell Boggs and Marc Rzepczynski continue to toil away as Memphis remains in contention for the PCL American Northern first half title. The roster shake-up makes the record almost an afterthought given how Springfield battled right down to the last day as well. With the trade market always an uncertainty, a smart decision by the Cardinals may end up making any move secondary.

Prized rookies Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez have been ticketed for September call-ups but now may offer differing roles. Once thought a lock for the bullpen, Martinez dazzled yesterday for Memphis and offers insurance for the fifth spot in the rotation. Wacha became a roster casualty once Jake Westbrook returned, but that was all part of the plan. He will benefit from what St. Louis did with ROY candidate Shelby Miller last season and should give flexibility needed down the stretch.

With all the contributions from rookie pitchers, it remains to be seen when the Cardinals will call upon the dynamic duo of Oscar Taveras and Kolten Wong. OT has shown the same hitting ability witnessed the last two years, but his tender ankle slows expectations. Wong really has little more to prove in the minors but is blocked for playing time barring an infield injury.

Even with a couple of roster spots available by the end of July, the true story for St. Louis comes in the form of options. Sporting the game’s best record in addition to top farm system presents more opportunities than any other contender. What Mo and company choose to do with the deck the next 30 days and change may very well decide just how hot the dog days get while Monday nights return back to normal. Enjoy the rest of your off-day, as the Birds on the Bat get ready to visit the newest member of the AL West.

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