The Time is Now for Magneuris Sierra

It’s official, The St. Louis Cardinals have called up outfielder Magneuris Sierra from High-A Palm Beach. Injuries have plagued the Cardinals outfield in just the last week. First it was Stephen Piscotty who came up limping running to first base. He’s on the 10-day DL. Then, it was Dexter Fowler who strained his shoulder diving for a ball. Then, rookie Jose Martinez was hurt Saturday against the Atlanta Braves.. enter Magneuris Sierra.

It’s not often a player makes the jump from High-A to the major leagues. Sierra has been touted as one of the organization’s top prospects since he was drafted in 2013 and was in Low-A Peoria just last season. In my short time getting to watch Sierra play, I was impressed.

Sierra looks like a high school sophomore at 5’11” and 160 pounds, but I think his bat will do the talking. He’s currently hitting .272 with 4 triples and 3 doubles in Palm Beach. He also has 3 stolen bases, indicating his speed will be a factor. Sierra was the only remaining outfielder on the Cardinals 40-man roster. Essentially that means he was the team’s only option without kicking someone else off.

The lineup is out for Sunday’s series finale against the Atlanta Braves. If you look, you’ll find Sierra hitting 7th and playing center field. He’ll wear #43 for the Cardinals.. a number that’s been prominent in the Cardinals bullpen and outfield in recent years. The team is hoping their new young star can help them sweep the series before heading further south to Miami.

So, what do you think of the move? Is Sierra the real deal or is he just a placeholder until Piscotty or Martinez come off the DL?

Kolten Wong: Zero or Hero?

My frustration with the second baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals is not a secret. I have publicly voiced my displeasure with Kolten Wong for years. He’s a streaky hitter and the most confusing defender you’ll ever see. However, the Cardinals still keep Wong around.. even going as far as signing him to a huge contract extension. How has that worked out? The answer: It hasn’t.

Whenever Kolten Wong steps into the batters box, I feel a rush of anxiety through my body. Will he actually do something productive? It’s a question many Cardinals fans ask. At the time of this post, Wong has been productive of late. In his last seven games, Wong is hitting .421 with 2 doubles and 3 RBI. His overall season batting average has quietly climbed to .296.

While the offense is starting to show signs of life, his defense is STILL atrocious. It’s not even that he commits errors, it’s the plays and moments of when he doesn’t make the play. Basically there is an easy way to meter Wong’s defense. If the score is close and what a scorekeeper would consider a routine ground ball is hit his way, it will most likely be an error. If the Cardinals are up 8 and Wong has to move to his right and throw across his body to get the out, he will make the play.

Wong has played more than 200 innings so far and has five errors, but it’s only May. I’m confident he will show his true colors down the stretch. In the day and age of Sabermetrics, you can really tell a lot about a player beyond the numbers you see in a box score. One of my favorite statistics is WAR (Wins Above Replacement). WAR represents the number of wins a player added to his team above what a replacement player would add. Right now, Wong has an overall WAR of 0.4. In his career, he has a WAR of 6.0. Now, any rating between 5-7 is considered All-Star quality. That tells me he has the potential to be really good. However, numbers don’t always tell the whole story.

Another great way to judge a player is by his attitude. Wong made headline news during spring training when he told Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post Dispatch he didn’t want to share duties at second base.

“For me, the biggest thing is I just need people to have my back. When that comes, it will be good. But, I think right now, it’s just staying with my play, understanding I’m working toward getting myself more consistent, understanding what kind of player I can be. If that’s going to be with another team, so be it.”

I actually get it. Wong has struggled most of his career to produce a full quality season. Maybe he feels this season is the one where things change. Wong later said he wasn’t demanding a trade and loves playing for the Cardinals.

More recently, Wong showed maturity after a game against the Milwaukee Brewers. Wong made two key mistakes that cost the Cardinals a win. The first mistake was running through a stop sign rounding third base and getting caught in a rundown. The second was in extra innings when he mishandled a routine ground ball. After the game Wong took the blame and had a positive outlook looking forward.

“I made some mistakes I shouldn’t be making. And I’m going to turn it around. If I sit back and worry about one game, I’m never going to get better.”

Kolten Wong will bat leadoff when the Cardinals take on the Atlanta Braves Saturday night. It could be another opportunity to prove to Cardinals fans, and himself, that he can be a hero instead of a zero.

How Curt Schilling saved my life

 

Nick Laham/Getty Images
 
I was 17 years old when I had my first dip of chewing tobacco. I picked up the habit while watching my favorite sport, baseball. You see it all the time, someone you admire steps up to the plate, their lip stuffed with chew. 
In my case, that player was Chris Duncan. But this story isn’t about Chris Duncan, it’s about Curt Schilling. I chewed on and off since I was 17. I’d gather the courage to quit, then I’d pick the habit back up again. Why? Baseball season. I had friends and family ask me all the time, “Why do you do that? It’s so nasty..” I always just shrugged them off. 

Probably one of the dumber responses I had was, “I have to die somehow.” I was young, I thought I was invincible and I was wrong.

Flashback to a year ago today, it was a Sunday night game at Busch Stadium against the Cincinnati Reds and the ESPN Baseball Tonight crew was there. I recently had read a letter that Curt Schilling wrote to his 16 year old self

As I walked inside the ballpark that night, I tried to find where ESPN was doing the pre game show. Once I did, it was only two short minutes before my life would change forever. As the crew wrapped up and it was time for Curt Schilling to step off the set and walk up to the broadcast booth, I seized my opportunity. 

I’ll admit, I was a little intoxicated, but no amount of alcohol would ever let me forget what was about to happen. As Schilling walked off the set, I walked with him, security nearby. I thought for sure I would be thrown out. I started yelling “Mr. Schilling! Mr. Schilling!” No response.

I stayed persistent, like a reporter trying to get a career-altering interview. Still, Schilling kept walking. Then I shouted, “I read your letter! I’ve chewed ever since I was 17 and I’m 22 now. I’ll never do it again. Thank you Mr. Schilling, you saved my life.” After that, he stopped walking. He came over to me, shook my hand and said, “It’s the best decision you’ll ever make in your life, kid.” Just like that, he walked away.

My emotions took over. My jaw was to the floor, trying to think about what just happened. I cried right there on the concourse. Fast forward to now: I’m one year chew free and I haven’t looked back since. My mouth doesn’t hurt when I eat, my gums look healthier and my teeth are whiter. The same man who broke my heart in 2004 as a member of the Boston Red Sox, saved my life 11 years later. For that, I’m forever grateful.

If you or someone you know needs help quitting call:

1-877-448-7848

tvteddy

Lackey dominates in Busch Stadium homecoming

 

Mark J. Rebilas – Jennifer Stewart/USA TODAY Sports
 
John Lackey was stellar Monday night against the St. Louis Cardinals in his first start at Busch Stadium since signing with the Chicago Cubs in the offseason. He got some run support from the league’s second-highest scoring offense in a 5-0 shutout of his former team. 

Lackey pitched a strong seven innings, striking out eleven and giving up just four hits en route to his third win of the young season.

Mike Leake had a solid outing besides giving up a solo home run to Dexter Fowler in the sixth. His performance was spoiled on a misread by Jeremy Hazelbaker on a ball that should have been caught in center, and an error by Aledmys Diaz. 

Jason Heyward’s return to Busch Stadium wasn’t as welcoming as Lackey’s. He was greeted by deafening boos when he was announced for his first at-bat. Every time he made a good defensive play, he was jeered by Cardinal nation. He finished the night hitless, including a strikeout.

For a complete look at Monday’s box score, click here.

Monday’s game was the first of 19 meetings this season between red and blue. The Cardinals will look to rebound Tuesday night when they send lefty Jaime Garcia to the mound. Garcia is coming off maybe the best performance of his career against Milwaukee. Garcia went the distance, giving up just one hit and striking out 13. Of the 27 outs recorded, the other 13 were ground ball outs.

The Cubs will send Jason Hammel to the mound in Tueday’s matchup. He’s posting just a 0.75 ERA in two starts. 

Cardinals beat Reds, set crosshairs on rival Cubs

 

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson
 
The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Cincinnati Reds 4-3 in dramatic fashion Sunday afternoon. The win secured the third straight series victory in the young season. 

Michael Wacha pitched six innings in his second home start. Two errors allowed two runs to score, but overall Wacha had a good game. He got some good run support as well with home runs from Jedd Gyorko and Matt Carpenter.

On the day Yadier Molina received his 8th consecutive Gold Glove, and 4th Platinum Glove awards, his understudy Eric Fryer put on a show.

Fryer went 3-3 with two RBI, Sunday. He drove in the go-ahead run in the 8th inning and threw out a runner trying to steal second. He’s now 6-6 to start his Cardinals career.

Trevor Rosenthal picked up his third save of the season.

For a look at Sunday’s box score against the Reds, click here.

Now, the Cardinals will set their sights on the Chicago Cubs who will make the trip south for a three game set starting Monday.

The first pitching matchup of the series will see newcomer Mike Leake go up against former Cardinals pitcher, John Lackey. 

Leake has yet to get much going since signing with the Cardinals in the offseason. For Lackey, Monday will be his first game back at Busch Stadium since leaving for the rival Cubs along with outfielder Jason Heyward.

Questions answered through first 11 games

 

Jeff Curry/USA TODAY Sports
 
Before the St. Louis Cardinals take on the Cincinnati Reds in a Sunday matinee matchup, I thought I’d answer some questions about the team through the first eleven games of the season.
Is Aledmys Diaz for real?

The answer is yes. Even I doubted Diaz during spring training due to his lackluster performance. Since being called up to the majors due to injuries, he’s been on a tear. Diaz has played in nine games so far and has two home runs, five doubles and a triple so far. He’s driven in eight runs and only struck out twice in 33 plate appearances and holds a .406 batting average. If that’s not impressive enough, Diaz’s BAbip (batting average of balls in play) is .393. If Ruben Tejada comes back soon as widely reported, Diaz should still be the everyday short stop. Once Jhonny Peralta comes back, Diaz could take over at second base.

Is Kolten Wong worth the money?

Sadly, the answer is no. Wong has been a defensive liability since he was called up to the majors a few years ago and has never been able to get things going at second base. Sure, the whole team has been bad defensively, but he and Aledmys Diaz have accounted for half of the team’s errors. He’s had bright spots offensively, but he’s not worth the five-year $25.5 million contract he signed during spring training.

Is Yadier Molina healthy?

I think his offense early on speaks for itself. Molina is hitting .311 with six RBI and four doubles so far. His thumb doesn’t appear to be a problem early on. I look for him to have another all-star caliber season this year.

What’s up with Randal Grichuk?

He walks up to the plate to the tune of Nelly’s “Here Comes the Boom” and it’s a fitting song. After a slow start to the season, Grichuk has raised his batting average to .219 (it was a .067 after the first series against Pittsburgh). Grichuk has also tallied two home runs and six RBI.

Is Jeremy Hazelbaker another Bo Hart?

For those that remember Bo Hart, you could see why I make the comparison. Hart played one solid season in 2003 for the Cardinals. He hit .277 with 13 doubles, four home runs and had an OPS of .713. So far in 2016, Hazelbaker is hitting .406 with three home runs and has seven RBI. Here’s to hoping Hazelbaker, who’s just 28 years old, isn’t a flash in the pan type of player for the Cardinals.

What’s wrong with Waino?

I’ve heard it from friends, I’ve seen it on Twitter, what is the deal with Adam Wainwright? He’s supposed to be the Cardinals’ best pitcher, right? Well here’s my answer, he still is. What great pitcher doesn’t have some rough outings? I get it, he’s supposed to throw complete games and shutout the worst teams in the league. Just be patient Cardinal nation. He will come around.

Wacha and Cardinals look to win third straight series

 

Billy Hurst/AP
 
The Cardinals will send Michael Wacha to the mound Sunday against the Cincinnati Reds, as the team tries to win its third straight series in 2016. In his last start against Milwaukee, Wacha pitched a gem. He went a solid six innings, giving up just four hits and seven strikeouts.

The Cardinals will go up against right hander Jon Moscot who’s making his first start of 2016 for Cincinnati.

The Cardinals’ offense has turned things around since a dismal performance in the first series of the season against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Since that time, the team has scored 74 runs and lead the league in runs scored with 81. 

All everyone talked about in the offseason was how great the Cardinals’ pitching was, but the offense wasn’t. The team has proved everyone wrong thus far, but it’s a small sample size.

The Cardinals have to take care of business Sunday to have some momentum heading into a three game series with the Chicago Cubs.

Here’s a look at Sunday’s lineup.

The Cubs come to town starting Monday. The series will mark the return of John Lackey and Jason Heyward to St. Louis since they signed with the Cubs in the offseason. Mike Leake will take the mound in the first game against, you guessed it, John Lackey.

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Cardinals complete sweep of Braves, record back at .500

 

John Konstantaras/Getty Images
 
On a day when Adam Wainwright wasn’t very Wainwright like, the Cardinals’ offense scored 12 runs for the second straight game en route to a sweep of the Atlanta Braves. The final from Atlanta: 12-7 in favor of the Cardinals.

Wainwright couldn’t locate many pitches and lasted just 5 innings, gave up 5 runs and tied a career high with 5 walks. However, the offense wasn’t phased by the Braves’ bullpen and scored 5 runs in the 9th inning to secure the win. The Cardinals finished the series with 31 runs after a series in Pittsburgh that had fans scratching their head.

Randal Grichuk had three walks Sunday, which is much better than what he was doing at the plate going into the game. To me it shows he’s seeing the ball better and will eventually come around at the plate.

Matt Carpenter hit his first home run of the season, a three-run shot in the 9th. Aledmys Diaz came in the game and hit a two-RBI double as well.

Sueng Hwan Oh had another impressive outing Sunday. He struck out two of the three batters he faced and picked up his first major league win.

The Cardinals will have a happy flight back to St. Louis where they’ll play their first game at home against the Milwaukee Brewers, Monday. The Brewers have been playing tough against the Houston Astros this weekend.

-tvteddy

Cardinals go for sweep against Braves

 

John Bazemore / AP
 
Adam Wainwright will make his second start of the season Sunday against the team that drafted him, the Atlanta Braves.

Wainwright had a rocky first outing against the Pirates pitching 6 innings and giving up 3 runs off 6 hits. 

The offense has seemed to perk up over the last two games which brought a lot of firsts. Some of those include a record-setting 3 pinch hit home runs and Aledmys Diaz’s first career home run. 

In this series against Atlanta, the Cardinals have out scored their opponent 19-6. It hasn’t been all positive news though, the team continues to have defensive mishaps. As a team they’ve combined for 9 errors in 5 games, which is the most among teams in the National League.

Randal Grichuk, who most pegged as a 30 home run guy this season, has yet to get anything going offensively. In 15 at bats he’s mustered just one hit and has struck out 8 times. 

Grichuk is out of the lineup again Sunday as the red hot rookie Jeremy Hazelbaker will start in his place. Hazelbaker already has two home runs, one of them a pinch hit home run. He’s hitting .400 early on.

Here’s a look at Sunday’s lineup against the Braves:

Matt Carpenter (3B)

Jeremy Hazelbaker (CF)

Stephen Piscotty (RF)

Brandon Moss (LF)

Matt Adams (1B)

Yadier Molina (C)

Kolten Wong (2B)

Greg Garcia (SS)

Adam Wainwright (RHP)

The game will be televised on Fox Sports Midwest. Coverage starts at noon with first pitch scheduled for 12:35.

-tvteddy

MLB set for another Opening Day

Photo Credit: Jerry Lai/USA TODAY Sports
 
Today’s the day many of us have been waiting on since the last out of the 2015 season. It’s a day where strangers come together to celebrate a game they love. It’s something we have in common, you know. 

Today, millions of people will put on their caps, showing which team they have pride in. Some will watch on TV, others will be at the ballpark. But somehow, whichever one you do, you still feel connected to the millions of other strangers that cheer on your team. 

Every year your team is the best, regardless of record. Some seasons end in heartbreak, others in pure, adrenaline rush excitement. It’s the games where your team is down three runs with two outs and a rookie steps up to the plate and hits a walk off grand slam that make you remember why you fell in love with the game in the first place. 

It’s the greenest grass you’ve ever laid your eyes on. The crack of the bat. The popping sound you hear when a 95 mph fastball reaches the catcher’s mit. That’s why you love baseball.

Now, the wait is over. Here’s the first lineup that Mike Matheny will send out on the field in 2016. Happy Opening Day.

Cardinals lineup

Carpenter 3B

Pham LF

Holliday 1B

Grichuk CF

Piscotty RF

Molina C

Wong 2B

Gyorko SS

Wainwright P

-tvteddy