Ellis to DL with left oblique strain; Garcia recalled

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

A day after manager Mike Matheny revealed that Mark Ellis was unavailable for the team’s series opener against the Reds due to soreness, the veteran infielder was placed on the disabled list with a left oblique strain.

The Cardinals announced the roster move on Tuesday, though Ellis’ DL stint can be backdated to Aug. 15. Taking his place on the 25-man roster is infielder Greg Garcia, who was hitting .275 with 40 RBIs in 103 games with Triple-A Memphis. Garcia, who was briefly on the Major League roster early in the season, batted .367 with Memphis this month.

Ellis, 37, started for the Cardinals at second base last Thursday but had not played since. Dating back to July 6, Ellis had made just four starts.

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August 15: Padres (57-63) @ Cardinals (64-56)

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Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Oscar Taveras remains out of the Cardinals’ lineup for a second straight day, though manager Mike Matheny described the decision to start Shane Robinson more as a nod to Robinson’s contributions on Thursday than a slight at Taveras. Matheny singled out Robinson’s defensive play in the first inning to rob Tommy Medica of an extra-base hit and then his throw to keep the potential tying run from scoring in the ninth as game-changers.

As for Taveras, there’s no question the frustration has been growing with some of his less-than-full-effort play, so I think it’s fair to assume that plays into this again, too. Matheny did say he expects Taveras to be back in the lineup before the end of the series.

Yadier Molina met with the media this afternoon after catching a bullpen session for the second straight day and said he is encouraged with his progress now five weeks out from thumb surgery. He hopes to start gripping a bat as early as next week. You can read more from him in today’s cardinals.com notebook.

Also earlier today, Matheny and general manager John Mozeliak accepted the now viral #IceBucketChallenge to raise awareness for ALS. You can watch it all unfold here.

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August 14: Cardinals (63-56) @ Padres (57-62)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

wpid-img_20140814_154619592.jpgAfter a disappointing 2-4 road trip, the Cardinals have returned to St. Louis for a seven-game homestand that first includes four games against the Padres. San Diego, despite being five games under .500, took two of three from the Cardinals two weeks ago.

The Cardinals will counter Padres lefty Eric Stults with a right-handed heavy lineup on Thursday. In are Peter Bourjos, Mark Ellis, Shane Robinson and Tony Cruz. Out are A.J. Pierzynski, Kolten Wong, Oscar Taveras and Jon Jay. Ellis is 6-for-13 in his career against Stults. Matt Holliday has also had some success against the lefty (albeit, in a smaller sample size), and his left knee was good enough for him to stay in the lineup. Holliday came out of Wednesday’s game in the seventh when that knee “flared up.”

Yadier Molina, who had the hard cast removed from his thumb last Friday, took another step forward in his recovery process as he caught a bullpen session this afternoon. He was able to lightly throw the ball back, though his thumb is now in a soft cast. Molina has hit the five-week mark since undergoing surgery to repair a torn ligament. The expectation is that it would be an 8-to-12 week recovery before he is back on the field. The Cardinals are optimistic Molina will be on the quicker end of that range.

Jason Motte also provided an update on his status… which is basically status quo. Motte (lower back strain) has not resumed throwing and is still feeling some back discomfort while doing everyday activities. Though Motte is eligible to come off the DL on Sunday, It’s sounding more like he won’t be back until September, as he will not only have to resume throwing, but also go out on a rehab assignment before any activation.

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August 6: Red Sox (49-63) @ Cardinals (60-51)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

wpid-img_20140806_154635232.jpgAll the intrigue tonight is on the pitching matchup, which features best buddies Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller as opponents for the first time in their career. Both members of the 2009 Draft class, Kelly and Miller made the climb through the Cardinals’ system together, often living together as roommates along the way. For more on the matchup and their thoughts about it, you can read the full game preview.

Not much else in the way of important pregame news. The lineup is unchanged from Tuesday, when the Cardinals struck for a second straight come-from-behind win. The club is 3-1 on this homestand and has won four of five since the Trade Deadline.

For those of you out-of-market folks, a reminder that tonight’s game will be shown on ESPN in addition to FOX Sports Midwest.

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August 3: Brewers (61-50) @ Cardinals (58-51)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

wpid-img_20140803_103158065.jpgAfter watching Justin Masterson make his organizational debut on Saturday, the Cardinals will get their first in-person look at John Lackey this afternoon. Lackey is plenty rested, as he hasn’t pitched since last Saturday. He also won’t have the issue of throwing to an unfamiliar catcher, as his trade to St. Louis reunited him with A.J. Pierzynski. Pierzynski caught Lackey’s first 18 starts of the season before Boston released the veteran catcher.

Jon Jay remains out of the lineup for a fifth straight day, though manager Mike Matheny said that Jay’s left wrist continues to improve. Jay was on the field this morning testing it out during a game of catch. The Cardinals expect Jay to be ready to return for Tuesday’s series opener against the Red Sox.

A win today would bring the Cardinals back to within a game of the Brewers, who are next headed back to Milwaukee to face the two contenders in the National League West (Los Angeles and San Francisco). The Cards and Brewers are still scheduled to meet another seven times in September.

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August 2: Brewers (61-49) @ Cardinals (57-51)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

wpid-img_20140802_143201151.jpgWith Friday’s loss, the Cardinals will not be able to supplant the Brewers as NL Central leaders by the end of this series, but they’d like to avoid falling even further behind. Heading into Saturday, the deficit is three games.

The Cardinals will get a look at both of their new starting pitchers this weekend, beginning with Justin Masterson tonight. This will be Masterson’s first Major League start since July 7, as he was most recently on the DL due to knee inflammation. Though Masterson did make two rehab starts while he was sidelined, the Cardinals will be conservative with how far they push him tonight.

Jon Jay is out of the lineup for a fourth straight game as he nurses a sore left wrist. Jay told manager Mike Matheny that he thinks he might be ready to play again as early as Sunday. Pinch-hitting is a possibility today, Matheny said, though the Cardinals aren’t sure Jay is ready for a repetition of swings.

Also, the Red Sox announced today that Joe Kelly will be making his Boston debut next Wednesday… at Busch Stadium… against close friend Shelby Miller. Arguably no one in the Cardinals’ clubhouse took Kelly’s departure harder than Miller, so that is bound to be an intriguing matchup.

Allen Craig made his first start for the Red Sox on Friday and went 1-for-4 with a double. He also rolled his ankle in his final at-bat and was out of the lineup today. Both Craig and Kelly met with reporters in Boston after arriving at their new home and you can read those comments here and here.

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That’s a (Trade Deadline) wrap

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

It was an active stay here in San Diego for general manager John Mozeliak, who retooled his rotation with the additions of Justin Masterson and John Lackey. The latter move created sizeable ripples in the Cardinals’ clubhouse this morning, not because of who the Cardinals got but because of who (Allen Craig, Joe Kelly) they had to give up to get him. This isn’t a team used to seeing core pieces dealt from the Major League club during a push for a division title. But in the Cardinals’ attempts to keep their prospects and get better, it was necessary. This is a business first, and to those who may have forgotten that part of it, today was a sharp reminder.

First, let me pass along links to all the Trade Deadline coverage, which will give you reaction, commentary and answers. Then I’ll tack on some final thoughts below regarding the Cardinals’ activity.

  • The Cardinals landed a front-end starter in acquiring John Lackey from the Red Sox on Thursday. (story)
  • Players, staff hit hard by the departures of Craig and Kelly, both popular teammates and drafted-and-developed Cardinals. (story)
  • With Craig no longer in the picture, Oscar Taveras is in line to be the team’s everyday right fielder. (story)
  • Lackey and Masterson are expected in St. Louis on Friday, at which time the Cardinals will finalize a rotation order. (story)
  • And don’t forget about Masterson, whose acquisition a day earlier helped pave the way for Thursday’s deal. (story)

Some additional thoughts…

  • It was a crazy day across baseball, with 12 trades made involving 18 teams and 37 players. That does not mean, though, that everything being reported along the way was accurate. The Cardinals were not seriously in on David Price and never in on Jon Lester. Lester was not seen as the right fit, while the price wasn’t right for the Rays ace.
  • We won’t know for some time whether the Cardinals will “win” or “lose” this Lackey trade. In the immediate, Lackey represents a rotation upgrade over Kelly. Yes, Kelly would be under team control through 2018, but the Cardinals get Lackey for another year after this one and at the Minor League minimum (around $500,000). Lackey, though aging, has been a durable innings-eater for some time and is still performing as a top-of-the-rotation pitcher. Don’t discount his extensive postseason experience, too. If you take an isolated view, the rotation is clearly better with him in it for the next two seasons. And with a pipeline of young pitching, the Cardinals should be just fine once Lackey’s time in St. Louis is up.
  • What may go on to define this deal is Craig. The Cardinals thought Craig would be a core piece of this organization for years, which is why they locked him down with a multi-year extension in March 2013. This season, though, has been perplexing for all involved. Craig has been lost at the plate for most of four months and the mechanics of his swing are clearly off. Perhaps he finds it in Boston, where he’ll work with a new set of coaches and under a different set of circumstances. If he does, he could leave the Cardinals with some buyers remorse down the road. I’m guessing, though, that the Cardinals were concerned Craig would never find his way back, and this was an opportunity to flip him for a valuable piece and part with the rest of his guaranteed contract.
  • After 107 games, it has become clear that the Cardinals’ offense is going to present a day-to-day struggle. Mozeliak isn’t blind to that. What is he doing, though, is wagering the season on his starting pitchers. By deepening the rotation, the Cardinals hope to ride their pitching deep into October. And a Wainwright-Lackey-Lynn-Masterson-Miller sequence (with Michael Wacha potentially ready to push one of those five out in September) does look quite impressive on paper.
  • It was impossible not to be struck by the mood in the clubhouse this morning. Players (including the two traded) found out about the deal while watching TV. It certainly wasn’t the ideal form of communication, but word leaked before the deal was official and so it played out that way. It’s not unusual for this to happen, either. Actually, it’s pretty commonplace these days with social media and 24-7 newscasts. The shock in the clubhouse, though, wasn’t so much about how the news was delivered but that it was at all. Neither Craig, nor Kelly, were at all prepared to be moved because they hadn’t heard their names in the rumor mill. The disbelief was evident in both, and it was clearly hard for everyone to say goodbye. Several players couldn’t get them without tears.
  • Thursday wasn’t just about what the Cardinals did, but about what their NL Central competitors didn’t do. The Reds, waffling between buying and selling, did neither. The Pirates, reported to be pursuing several high-end starters, also didn’t make a deal. The Brewers acquired outfielder Gerardo Parra but no outfield help. The Cardinals should benefit from all that inactivity.

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July 30: Cardinals (56-49) @ Padres (47-59)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

wpid-img_20140730_153236770.jpgIt’s already been a busy day for the Cardinals, who closed a deal with the Indians earlier on Wednesday to acquire right-hander Justin Masterson. In exchange, the Cards send outfielder James Ramsey (first-round pick, 2012 Draft) to Cleveland. To read more on the trade, click here. Look for a more extensive recap piece later today, too, as both manager Mike Matheny and general manager John Mozeliak are scheduled to meet with the media during the team’s batting practice.

Masterson will meet the Cardinals in St. Louis on Friday and make his organizational debut the next day against the Brewers.

As for tonight, Joe Kelly takes the mound for his first career start against the Padres. And because we’re not too far away from his longtime California home, he expects to pitch in front of dozens of family and friends. That will boost an already sizeable contingent of Cardinal fans again expected at Petco Park.

Oscar Taveras returns to the lineup tonight in place of Allen Craig (0-for-3 on Monday). Peter Bourjos and Tony Cruz are also starting.

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Cards acquire Masterson; deal Ramsey

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Seeking to add to their starting pitching depth, the Cardinals finalized a trade with the Indians on Tuesday that is sending right-hander Justin Masterson to St. Louis in exchange for outfielder James Ramsey.

Masterson is not one of the elite starting pitchers the Cardinals were eyeing as Thursday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches. But he does help fill a rotation spot while the Cardinals await Michael Wacha’s return from a shoulder stress reaction. Wacha is not expected back until September.

Masterson has also been on the disabled list but is ready to return after making two Minor League rehab starts with the Indians’ Triple-A affiliate. He is slated to make his Cardinals debut on Saturday.

He pitched most recently last Friday, walking six and allowing five runs on four hits in 6 2/3 innings. Masterson was recovering from right knee inflammation and has dealt with discomfort in the knee since the start of the season.

Perhaps as a result, Masterson has not had near the success this season that he did while going 14-10 with a 3.45 ERA and 1.202 WHIP in an All-Star year in 2013. In 19 starts before landing on the DL, Masterson had a 5.51 ERA and 1.653 WHIP. He had 93 strikeouts and 56 walks in 98 innings.

***

UPDATE: To read the full cardinals.com story outlining the Masterson-Ramsey trade, click here.

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July 29: Cardinals (56-48) @ Padres (46-59)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

wpid-img_20140729_155543432.jpgThe Cardinals and Padres meet tonight for the first of seven games between the two clubs over the final two months of the season. Before the game, San Diego activated shortstop Everth Cabrera from the disabled list; Cabrera missed 20 games with a hamstring injury.

The Trade Deadline (now less than 48 hours away) will loom over the Cardinals’ time here in San Diego. The team continues to search for starting pitching help but has yet to pull the trigger on a trade. In fact, none of the four contending teams in the National League Central has improved their club by making a deadline deal. Certainly there are a few coming…

The Padres, on the other hand, may be some of their contributing players before the series is over. Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak is here in San Diego with several of his baseball operations folks and have bunkered up in a nearby hotel to continue their work leading up to Thursday’s 3 pm CT deadline.

Here at Petco Park, A.J. Pierzynski is making his third straight start since joining the team. Allen Craig is back in the lineup for the first time since Friday, which means Oscar Taveras is back on the bench. Lance Lynn make his fifth start of the month and looks to cap a terrific July. Through four outings, Lynn in 3-1 with a 1.75 ERA and .219 batting average against. He has finished at least six innings each time out.

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