As you know, I’ve done a lot of post series in my day. Every year we have Pepper and Top Cards and Exit Interviews. But I have never, never been as excited to see a series end as this one. When I first thought I’d write every day of the pandemic-caused stoppage, I really didn’t think it through and expect to still be writing at the end of July. However, here we are, one sleep away from a regular season baseball game, and we hit the site every day. It’s something. I don’t know what but it’s something.
We also had baseball yesterday. As legitimate of baseball as you can get without it counting in the standings. A game at Busch Stadium, carried by FOX Sports Midwest, with a lineup that likely will be the same (or very close) to what we’ll see Friday night against the Pirates. I wasn’t able to see the game, so my impressions come mainly from the tweets of those that did. That, as always, will not stop me from opining.
I don’t know if there was anything to it, but there were some that seemed to note that Miles Mikolas saw a drop in velocity by the end of his four inning stint. That could be just the natural need to build up stamina, but it’s something to watch if that’s accurate. With all the pitching problems in the bullpen, the Cards could really use a stable rotation. Though it’s good to know that Austin Gomber and Daniel Ponce de Leon are there if necessary.
Which is probably one of the reasons that Mike Shildt felt comfortable moving Kwang Hyun Kim to the end of the bullpen. If his outing on Wednesday was any indication, Mike Shildt might be a certifiable genius. Kim struck out all three Royals he faced and looked extremely sharp doing it. I know that batters haven’t seen him yet and, especially in this condensed schedule, they might have a handle on him by the end of the season, but then again they may not and bringing a starter’s arsenal to the ninth has been effective before.
Speaking of that, Carlos Martinez also looked sharp yesterday, covering four innings and allowing only two hits, though one of them was a solo homer by Bubba Starling. Martinez struck out three and sounded like a seasoned veteran afterwards, with comments about maturity and more knowledge of what his arm can do and how he doesn’t have to do it all on every pitch. We’ve often wanted to see a very focused Martinez on the mound and it really feels like he’s grown into a situation where he can meld the physical and the mental.
Offensively, it was a good day as well. Granted, you are going up against the Royals pitching, but the at bats seemed solid. Matt Carpenter had a couple of well-hit balls, one for a double that gave the Cardinals their first lead of the game and one that was scored an error but saw Carpenter wind up on third. If he’s swinging well, this lineup becomes much more dangerous.
Also dangerous? If Harrison Bader is patient. He went 0-1 in the game but drew two walks and, given that he was hitting ninth, he had to earn them. Putting him at the bottom of the lineup means that, if he can draw walks and use his speed, you turn the lineup over quite nicely.
Paul DeJong picked up where he left off in the spring, bashing yet another home run while driving in three in total. There were some concerns last year that DeJong was going to more of a “boom or bust” kind of guy but some of that might have really been overuse. Also, I imagine he spent a lot of the winter (and this more recent off time) analyzing what went wrong and figuring out some adjustments to make. This guy is a smart guy and if he can put it all together, my goodness.
Really the only down note from today was Dexter Fowler, who likely would have gotten the Goat if we did that for exhibition games. (I can’t believe it’s about time to fire up Heroes and Goats again!) 0-2 bringing his spring training average to .091, plus he didn’t score on a fly ball hit by Tommy Edman that turned into a double play when Bader didn’t make it to second. (Granted, there’s a lot of blame to go around there.) I know the Cardinals are going to give him a little bit of leeway and I don’t know that he does you much good taking up a bench spot (because there is no way they’ll cut him, especially not in the current economic environment) but if Bader and Tyler O’Neill (who went 1-2 with two RBI and also drew a walk) are able to play to their potential, there’s only going to be so long they can handle a down Fowler before swapping in Lane Thomas or promoting Dylan Carlson. Hopefully he’ll get it together but right now, he’s looking like the weak link.
Fowler has another year on his contract, which probably keeps him in St. Louis. Brett Cecil only had 60 games and, as such, wound up getting the pink slip yesterday. Cecil’s time in St. Louis was fraught with injuries and ineffectiveness and there was a lot of blame directed at him. However, he worked hard to try to be an effective member of the team. It just didn’t work out. His first year was solid, if perhaps less than you’d want to see for his contract, and then the injuries really started to pile up. Couple that with some personal issues, like his father-in-law passing away, and I imagine Cecil is probably somewhat relieved to put this chapter in his life behind him. Maybe he’ll catch on somewhere else, probably more likely next year than this, and I wish him the best of luck. However, with the lesser velocity he was flashing in the last week or so, it could be that his career is over, especially as the need for LOOGYs has evaporated.
Cardinals very well may set their roster today and from all indications Kodi Whitley is going to make the team. Cecil’s dismissal does free up a 40-man spot, though so to does putting John Brebbia on the 45-day (this year’s version of the 60) IL. Whether the Cards will fill the 40 with another player or leave that tantalizingly open for Carlson, we’ll have to wait and see.
“Looks like we’ve made it. Look how far we’ve come my baby. We might have took the long way. We knew we’d get there someday.”
Baseball, folks. It’s almost here.