ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – After this weekend, the Cardinals will have played 63 games, which means there are 99 to go. I don’t have to tell you this, but it’s a loooooong season.
That said, the Cardinals have some things that are trending upward — and a few areas they need to tighten up — which could factor into its annual pursuit of a world championship.
1) The starting rotation needs to be addressed. Jaime Garcia’s latest outing should set off a few alarm bells at 700 Clark Street. Garcia didn’t look like himself, allowing five runs on 13 (!) hits in 4 2/3 innings. Granted, it was at the offensive playground that is Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati. But it’s been clear for the last couple of starts that Garcia is not finding the location necessary to be successful…and that results in some crooked numbers. If Garcia (or Michael Wacha, for that matter) continues to show signs of regression, it might be time to skip a start and let someone else take an assignment.
2) Alex Reyes is developing. There’s no need to break the glass and activate the Cardinals’ best pitching prospect…at least not yet. As we get closer to the second half of the season, however, it will be interesting to see how the Cardinals utilize Reyes, a strikeout machine. Will he make a spot start? Join the bullpen? Be used as a late-inning reliever, à la Carlos Martinez in 2013? Enter the rotation? All possibilities would appear to be on the table, although Reyes is still working on his efficiency in Memphis (he recently labored through a 1 2/3 innings, five-hit, four-run start). Give it time, but know he’s the real deal, offering a 100 miles-per-hour moving fastball with a big-league hook.
3) New-look infield. One of the contributing factors to the decline in pitching was the Cardinals’ shaky defense through the first two months of the season. Too many errors resulted in too many extra pitches. The infield looks to be stabilized with the addition of Jhonny Peralta, now shifted to third base. Matt Carpenter takes over at second base, a former position of his, with the emerging Aledmys Diaz at shortstop. If Diaz continues to hit, he’ll play regularly…and the prevailing thought is that he will iron out any defensive issues he had earlier. Confidence doesn’t seem to be a problem with Diaz, a steady performer and future star. Kolten Wong, on the other hand, has tremendous defensive talent, but seems to be dealing with inconsistency at second base related to a lack of production at the plate. Wong will continue to work in Memphis. Don’t count him out, by any means.
4) Matt Adams is back. Yes, the offensive production of Diaz has been delightful. Brandon Moss is crushing the ball. Matt Carpenter and Stephen Piscotty look like All-Stars. But the return of “Big City” has been the most important boost for the Cardinals’ lineup thus far. Adams has been able to hold down the first base position (the only position he can play) and his .333 batting average (through June 8) has alleviated any concerns about his swing. Opposing teams are using “the shift” less and less on Adams…and Adams is even hitting lefties, making him an almost automatic entry on the lineup card each night. He’s averaging 2.8 plate appearances per game, just under the required 3.1 to qualify for the National League batting race. It won’t be long.
5) Mike Matheny and John Mozeliak have important decisions coming. One of them was already made, moving Peralta to third and Carpenter to second. Another was optioning Wong to AAA. Is Randal Grichuk next? Grichuk is struggling at the plate. And when do the Cardinals pull off a season-changing trade? Do they need to make a deal right now, or is it best to evaluate their own talent, especially as their bullpen (Seth Maness) and bench (Brayan Pena) are on the mend. Tommy Pham is sitting in Memphis. And what about that rotation? Stay tuned.
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