Good afternoon. I hope you're all doing well. Thanks for joining this week's chat. Please fire away.
I don't know about your comment regarding his body language. When things go poorly, guys aren't exactly going to be jumping up and down with excitement. It's all about results, not body language. If he's producing, he deserves to be in. If he's not, Harrison Bader has proved to be a very capable backup who can step right in without missing a beat, whether it's to replace Dexter Fowler in right field, Marcell Ozuna in left field or Tommy Pham in center field.
In Hicks' case, he has 30 innings over 27 outings. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, they have had a rash of injuries to their bullpen. Jordan Hicks has had to carry a huge load because he's been one of the best relievers on the team and because Gregerson has been hurt, Greg Holland, who is hurt now, was ineffective, and Dominican Leone was hurt. Last night Mike Matheny needed to use Preston Guilmet because Carlos Martinez lasted only four innings. Unfortunately, Guilmet didn't perform well. Pitchers get hurt. Name any player and predict that they will get hurt, and I bet that you're likely to be proven correct at some point. That's just the nature of the beast when you have men throwing in an unnatural motion. The Cardinals know they have to tread lightly with Hicks, but they also know they need to win games.
I don't blame Mike Matheny or Jose Oquendo for the running mistakes last night. Marcell Ozuna is a darn veteran. Oquendo did the right thing, but Ozuna blew right past the stop sign. He was rewarded with success even though he did the right thing. You can rest assured, though, that somebody on the coaching staff had a talk with Ozuna about that decision. The Matt Carpenter play when he was doubled up at first from left field is simply bad luck. Carpenter needed to be halfway up the line because it appeared as though that ball would drop. He's not fast enough to stay close to first and expect to reach to second safely if that ball falls. Unfortunately, he wasn't fast enough to get back to first in time. One of the biggest plays of the game was the one when Tommy Pham was picked off at third base with one out and Molina at the plate. That play was a momentum killer. All three of those plays were executed by veterans, so you cannot blame Matheny. Moreover, fans shouldn't assume that Matheny isn't calling out the players in private just because he's the type of manager who doesn't rip his players in the media.
As you surely know, Bill DeWitt Jr. doesn't exactly believe in going all in. The Cardinals are a meticulous, smart franchise that will surely make a run at Machado, but they're not just going to tie the franchise to a bad long-term contract that could cripple the organization for years. I fully expect the Cardinals to try to acquire Machado at the trade deadline. I think the Cardinals need to have Machado play here to convince him that St. Louis is a city worthy of his talents. The fans here, the city's baseball culture and the franchise's history helps entice players to stay. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, it has become clear in recent years that free agents or top trade targets with no-trade clauses aren't exactly dying to play in St. Louis.
The Cardinals must hope that Dexter Fowler rallies with a strong second half. They're pretty much stuck with him. I cannot imagine that his trade value is very high, especially when you consider that Harrison Bader might be a better option in left field. There's no way that the Cardinals would designate him for assignment. He salvaged a decent season last year, and the Cardinals surely hope he can turn it around this year.
Martinez was adamant that he was fine. Trust me, the Cardinals weren't going to throw their ace back on the mound if they suspected that he was hurt. He finished with a perfect frame in the fourth. Moreover, he got double plays when he needed. He was tentative in the first two innings, and it showed. As he told us last night, he felt fine after his rehab start. Heck, this outing was better than his opening day start. He's not the first athlete who has doubts when he returns from the disabled list. It's natural to be hesitant after returning from the disabled list. I spoke with him at length in Spanish, and he assured me he was fine. I don't know if you remember, but I wrote a few weeks back that this lat strain is the same discomfort he told me about in spring training.
Barring injury, the Cardinals' rotation is Carlos Martinez, Miles Mikolas, Michael Wacha, Luke Weaver and Jack Flaherty. Sure, it would look stronger if Alex Reyes were back. Hopefully for the Cardinals and Reyes, he can be back in the rotation or pitching out of the bullpen by September. Also, remember that Dakota Hudson is 6-2 with a 2.69 ERA at Class AAA Memphis. The Cardinals have a lot of pitching depth. Hudson is close to being ready. Gomber is already up. I'm sure they would consider Gomber for the rotation if he can string a few quality relief outings together.
It might be too early to give up on Guilmet. Ryan Helsley is 2-0 with a 2.28 ERA over four starts at Class AAA Memphis. He was 3-2 with a 4.39 ERA over seven starts at Class AA Springfield before earning a promotion to the majors. Helsley might need more seasoning at Memphis, but there's no doubt that he's making a strong case for himself. I fully expect him to play a role on the major league club this year at some point. He's a stud, and the Cardinals will need him.
The Cardinals went 13-13 without their leader Yadier Molina. They just got Molina and Carlos Martinez back from the disabled list. They've overcome a series of injuries that would have decimated most other organizations. They're a deep and strong organization with plenty of arms who could help later this season. You can try to dump Fowler's salary, but I don't imagine that any team is rushing to help take on his salary. Wong is talented and athletic enough that a few teams might be willing to take him off the Cardinals' hands. When DeJong returns, a good case can be made that the Cardinals should stick DeJong in short and try Munoz at second. I think that Munoz has proved that he can be a quality major league regular. I imagine an infield with DeJong at short, Munoz at second, Gyorko at third and Carpenter at first would be the Cardinals' best defensive/offensive infield.
If you're producing, you can crawl, hop, stroll or pimp walk your way to your position and fans won't care, but if you're struggling it looks bad. Ozuna has been playing well lately. Fowler hasn't. I didn't focus on the way they took their defensive positions, though, so I cannot say whether I agree with your assessment or not.
That's a very good question. Fowler was a decent No. 3 hitter last year, if I remember correctly. I think Marcell Ozuna is showing some good signs in the cleanup spot. Ozuna will be fine. He's showcased his power with some key home runs lately. Ozuna will be fine. Martinez has been a solid No. 3 hitter this year, in my opinion. Pham has gotten a look in the No. 3 spot. They're trying to find a steady No. 3 hitter and haven't settled on one, so they clearly see what you see.
Garcia hasn't been hitting well at Memphis. He's hitting .205 with five home runs and 18 RBIs. He is definitely an intriguing prospect. He played really well in spring training.
Remember, you have to look at the matchups. I don't have the matchups up at this point, so I have no idea if this is a game that calls for Pham to start. It will be interesting to see how the comments Pham made last night play with the coaching staff. If the matchups are in his favor over Fowler, he should start. Remember, it's not as though Bader can replace two guys in the lineup on the same day.
If I were a betting man, I would say the most likely scenario would be Manny Machado going to the Cardinals. Remember, the Cardinals had discussions with the Orioles this winter about Machado, according to multiple reports. Moreover, remember that I wrote last month that the Orioles were actually in town scouting the Cardinals. In that column I also wrote that the Cardinals actually have the young, cheap, major-league ready talent that the Orioles covet in a deal for Machado. I think the Cardinals and Orioles could have a good match for Machado.
I haven't heard anything on that front. I wouldn't rule out anything, but I don't think he's that much of an improvement over Gyorko to prompt the Cardinals to unload some farm system depth for him.
Thanks. I'm here to serve. I knew the fans would be upset about the loss, but I actually tried to focus on the big picture. In my opinion the biggest and most important thing about Tuesday night for the Cardinals was the return of Yadier Molina and Carlos Martinez. In the long run, that's the most important thing for the Cardinals. They were sloppier than usual. Every team has those types of games. I hate that the veterans are the ones making those mistakes on the bases because those guys should know better.
I think you should stop stalking your neighbors. Who invests so much time checking out their neighbor to see if he's a good baseball strategist? Fences make good neighbors. Does your block have a baseball team? How would you know if your neighbor's son in-law is a good baseball strategist? I realize St. Louis is one of the best baseball towns in America, but I never imagined that neighbors waste time trying to figure out if their neighbor's son-in-law is a good baseball strategist. Moreover, why would I care if your neighbor is a good baseball strategist?
While Tommy Pham gave this answer, I was not there because I remained with Carlos Martinez last night doing an exclusive interview in Spanish to make sure that he was healthy. I raised an eyebrow when I read these quotes as well. There's a lot there to digest, and I'm sure the coaching staff and his manager would wonder about the context of these comments.
First of all, they don't make stupid mistakes every single day. With all that said, the mistakes reflect badly on the players and the coaching staff if they are consistently made. Unfortunately, some of those blunders are made by guys who should absolutely know better and are too good to sit. I know Matheny handles these things internally, so I can assure that he's on top of this even if he doesn't rip his players to the media.