Archive for the ‘ Uncategorized ’ Category

Cards ink reliever Matt Belisle

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Right-handed reliever Matt Belisle, an 11-year Major League veteran, has agreed to a one-year contract with the Cardinals, the organization announced on Tuesday. The addition further fortifies the Cardinals’ bullpen, which is expected to lose 2014 contributors Pat Neshek and Jason Motte to free agency.

Belisle is the second reliever added to the Cardinals’ Major League roster this offseason. Right-hander Jordan Walden came over to the organization in the team’s four-player November trade with Atlanta. FOXSports.com reported that Belisle’s deal includes $3.5 million in guaranteed money with the ability to increase that salary to $4 million through appearance incentives.

Belisle, 34, was most recently with Colorado, where he made at least 66 appearances in five of his six seasons. That included 66 in 2014, a season in which Belisle posted a 4.87 ERA and 1.438 WHIP in 64 2/3 innings. He struck out 43 and walked 19. Since transitioning to a relief role after the 2008 season, Belisle has never walked more than 20 batters in a season.

In 2012, Belisle made a National League-most 80 appearances. Over the last five years, he ranks second in the Majors with 367 appearances and 10th with 91 Holds. Belisle’s career splits against left-handed hitters and right-handed hitters are nearly the same.

Prior to signing with the Rockies, Belisle pitched five seasons for the Reds. He was a second-round pick by the Braves in the 1998 First-Year Player Draft and made his Major League debut against the Cardinals in 2003.

With Belisle now in the mix, the Cardinals have given themselves sufficient coverage in the bullpen as they look ahead to 2015. Before adding Walden and Belisle, the club already had Trevor Rosenthal, Randy Choate, Seth Maness, Kevin Siegrist and Sam Freeman among those returning. Carlos Martinez and Marco Gonzales would also slide into bullpen roles if not in the Opening Day rotation.

The addition of Belisle brings the Cardinals’ 40-man roster count to 38.

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Cardinals programming on FSM

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

For those craving some Cardinals programming, FOX Sports Midwest has plans for weekly Cardinals-related shows throughout the month of December. Here is the information:

  • December 3: Cardinals Legends: 1996 Roundtable (6:30 pm, 9 pm)
  • December 10: Cardinals Hot Stove (7 pm, 9:30 pm)
  • December 10: Replay of Pirates at Cardinals game from Sept. 1, 2014 (7:30 pm)
  • December 17: Cardinals Confidential: Winter Meetings (6:30 pm)
  • December 25: Marathon of best games from 2014
  • December 31: Cardinals Hot Stove Year in Review (6:30 pm, 9 pm)

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Cards acquire Heyward, Walden; deal Miller, Jenkins

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Needing to fill an unexpected hole in right field for 2015, the Cardinals went for a big splash, acquiring outfielder Jason Heyward from the Braves along with right-handed reliever Jordan Walden. The cost was heavy, however, as the Cardinals sent a pair of former first-round picks – right-handers Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins – to Atlanta to complete the four-player trade on Monday.

The trade comes three weeks after the death of 22-year-old outfielder Oscar Taveras, who, along with Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty, was expected to cover the right-field position in 2015. Uncertain if Grichuk and Piscotty alone could provide the Cardinals with the offensive upgrade they sought, general manager John Mozeliak vowed to look elsewhere for help.

With the free-agent market thin on outfielders, he said early in the process that a trade might be necessary to sufficiently fill the outfield void. In the end, he was able to deal from an area of surplus, as the Cardinals clearly believe they have enough starting pitching depth to weather the departure of Miller, who had been a member of the rotation for the last two seasons.

In Heyward, the Cardinals get an elite defender with a career slash line of .262/.351/.429 in five seasons with the Braves. Heyward is due $7.8 million in 2015 as part of the second installment of a two-year, $13.3 million contract that he signed to cover his final two seasons of arbitration.

Heyward will be a free agent at the end of the season. Walden, a second-time arbitration eligible player, will enter free agency after the 2016 season. That means the Cardinals procured two players with a combined three years of team control in exchange for the 10 years of control Atlanta gets with Miller and Jenkins.

A short-term fit in right field was somewhat appealing to the Cardinals all along, however, as Mozeliak has said that he still believes Piscotty and Grichuk have the potential to become everyday Major League outfielders.

Heyward, 25, is coming off his second Gold Glove season, one in which he led all Major League players with 32 Defensive Runs Saved. His Ultimate Zone Rating (24.1) ranked second in baseball behind Kansas City’s Alex Gordon.

In the lineup, Heyward would be a natural fit to hit in one of the top two spots in the lineup, giving the Cardinals flexibility to move Matt Carpenter down in the batting order, if desired. Heyward hit 26 doubles and 11 homers while driving in 58 for Atlanta in 149 games in 2014.

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Fall League final numbers

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

The Arizona Fall League finished play on Saturday, with Salt River defeating Peoria in the championship game. Eight Cardinals minor leaguers participated in the AFL, which is commonly referred to as the “finishing league” since it requires an invite to participate and is oftentimes a jumping-off point toward the Majors.

In case you missed it Friday, I wrote at length about Tyrell Jenkins’ strong AFL showing and how his improved health allowed him to take some critical steps forward this year. You can read the story at this link. Keep his name on the radar as you look for breakout candidates among the Cardinals’ prospects in 2015.

I also suggest this piece from MLB.com’s Jim Callis on the top AFL performer/prospect from each organization. There, you’ll find Jenkins’ name again, along with that of Sam Tuivailala.

And here are the final AFL numbers for each of the Cardinals’ representatives:

  • RHP Mitch Harris (11 games): 12.2 IP, 13 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 12 K
  • RHP Tyrell Jenkins (6 starts): 2-2, 2.22 ERA, 24.1 IP, 23 H, 6 ER, 10 BB, 18 K
  • RHP Chris Perry (9 games): 7.2 IP, 9 H, 7 ER, 10 BB, 3 K
  • RHP Sam Tuivailala (12 games): 5 SV, 14 IP, 10 H, 2 ER, 8 BB, 13 K
  • C Cody Stanley (21 games): .292/.363/.375, 9 R, 4 2B, 12 RBI
  • INF Breyvic Valera (12 games): .333/.400/.359, 5 R, 5 RBI, 3 SB
  • INF Jacob Wilson (24 games): .289/.347/.389, 12 R, 7 2B, 13 RBI
  • OF C.J. McElroy (16 games): .200/.347/.225, 4 R, 2 RBI, 7 SB

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Wrapping up this awards week

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

With today’s MVP announcement, MLB’s awards season (at least the bulk of it) has come to an end. Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw took home NL MVP honors, becoming the first NL pitcher since St. Louis’ Bob Gibson in 1968 to win both the MVP and Cy Young awards. Three Cardinals players received votes on the 30 MVP ballots, which each list a first- through 10th-place finisher.

Adam Wainwright placed eighth, with 53 points. He was named on 14 ballots and was as high as fifth on one of them. Matt Holliday and Jhonny Peralta each received 17 points, tying them for 14th. Holliday appeared on four ballots, Peralta on seven.

For a full breakdown on the MVP voting, click here.

The Cardinals had no one place higher than third in the voting for any of the four major Baseball Writers’ Association of America awards. Kolten Wong finished third in the Rookie of the Year race, while Wainwright had the same placement in Cy Young voting. Mike Matheny was fourth for the Manager of the Year Award.

The lone postseason awards the Cardinals have collected both went to Yadier Molina, winner of his seventh Gold Glove and third Platinum Glove.

I should remind you that voting for the final set of 2014 MLB awards — the GIBBYS (Greatness in Baseball Yearly) — is still ongoing at MLB.com. Aside from the Platinum Glove award, this is the only one to incoporate fan voting in the results. You can find the GIBBYs ballot here.

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Bourjos undergoes hip surgery

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Outfielder Peter Bourjos underwent right hip surgery to address a previously undisclosed hip impingement that, according to general manager John Mozeliak, affected Bourjos throughout much of the second half of the season.

The surgery, which was performed by team orthopedist Dr. David King on Oct. 21, should not have Bourjos limited when Spring Training opens in February. The Cardinals are expected to tender Bourjos, a second-time arbitration-eligible player, a contract this winter to bring him back as an extra outfielder in 2015.

The Cardinals’ training staff conducted a study on Bourjos’ hip in August, Mozeliak said, after the 27-year-old outfielder noted some discomfort in that area. At that time, it was determined that Bourjos would need to undergo a clean-out procedure at season’s end to address a cartilage defect in his hip.

Bourjos continued to play through the injury and was not known to have cut back on his pregame workload.

“He just grinded it out,” Mozeliak said. “He could have probably stopped the year had we not needed him. … It was something that bothered him most of the second half of the season, to where I do think it affected him offensively. I spoke to him a couple days ago, and he’s already feeling better.”

Bourjos, in his first season with the Cardinals, actually had better offensive numbers in the second half than the first half, but his playing time was limited. In 103 plate appearances after the All-Star break, Bourjos hit .253/.313/.374 with four stolen bases. Late in the year, he was used primarily as a defensive replacement.

This marks the second straight offseason during which Bourjos will be recovering from surgery. In September 2013, he underwent surgery on his right wrist. That procedure delayed his start on an offseason workout program, as will this one.

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Arizona Fall League update

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

With the Cardinals’ run to the NLCS and the tragedy that followed, I haven’t offered much of an update on the happenings down at the Arizona Fall League. Let’s rectify that today.

The AFL, which began on Oct. 7 and continues for another two weeks, offers some of the better prospects in the game the opportunity to compete against their peers. The group of players representing the Cardinals are part of the Peoria Javelinas club, which is 7-11-2.

Here is some content that might be of interest as you follow along:

  • MLB.com’s Jim Callis, after his trip to Arizona, wrote about the participating Cardinals’ minor leaguers here. In particular, he highlights C.J. McElroy.
  • Video: MLB.com’s AFL report on the Cardinals.
  • Right-hander Sam Tuivailala to represent the Cardinals in Saturday’s Fall Stars Game, which will be televised on MLB Network (7 pm CT)
  • Story on how Cardinals infield prospect Justin Wilson helped Peoria to a 5-4 win on Wednesday.

And up-to-date results (current through Wednesday) on the Cardinals in the AFL:

  • RHP Mitch Harris (6 games): 7.2 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K
  • RHP Tyrell Jenkins (4 starts): 0-2, 1.56 ERA, 17.1 IP, 14 H, 3 ER, 5 BB, 13 K
  • RHP Chris Perry (6 games): 5.2 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 8 BB, 2 K
  • RHP Sam Tuivailala (7 games): 2 SV, 9 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 5 BB, 8 K
  • C Cody Stanley (10 games): .263/.282/.316, 2 R, 2 2B, 4 RBI
  • INF Breyvic Valera (7 games): .273/.370/.273, 2 R, 2 RBI, 3 SB
  • INF Jacob Wilson (15 games): .268/.328/.393, 5 R, 5 2B, 7 RBI
  • OF C.J. McElroy (9 games): .160/.344/.200, 3 R, 1 2B, 4 SB

For more stats, schedules and stories, you can visit the Arizona Fall League website.

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Continuing to remember the life of Oscar Taveras

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Three days after a car accident took the life of 22-year-old Oscar Taveras and his 18-year-old girlfriend, several communities continue to mourn his loss. For those who may not have seen the following stories/photos/remembrances over the past 24 hours, here is a recap of some of the recent coverage:

  • MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez traveled to the Dominican Republic, where he joined a community mourning over its lost son. Here is Sanchez’s story of Taveras’ funeral and the outpouring of emotion in Taveras’ hometown. Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez and Taveras’ father, Francisco, were among those who talked with Sanchez.
  • As darkness came over St. Louis on Tuesday, bright lights shined over right field at Busch Stadium.
  • The World Series paused to remember Taveras before Game 6.
  • Kansas City starter Yordano Ventura dedicated his dominant Game 6 start to his late friend, Taveras. Ventura’s hat, on which he wrote ‘RIP OT #18′ is headed to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
  • On today’s podcast, national reporter Anthony Castrovince and I talked at length about Taveras’ life and the impact his death will leave on the Cardinals organization.

On an aside, I have gotten a lot of questions about plans the Cardinals may have to honor Taveras locally in St. Louis. Those have not yet been announced, though I’m told the organization is working on something. As soon as that information is made public, I will pass it along.

Over the last few days, I’ve taken some time to go back and read some of the stories on/watched some clips of Taveras — his potential, his arrival, his biggest hits and what we thought would be his future — as a way to remember not just the sadness that is, but the smiles that were. If you’d like to take that journey back in time, too, here are some recommended links:

And though it wasn’t published at the time, here is Taveras speaking about his future in one of his final interviews: “I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future or tomorrow. I’m going to keep working hard and we’ll see what happens. I want to be ready for any opportunity I get, for my manager and for the organization and do everything I can to win the games.”

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Remembering Oscar in St. Louis and the DR

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

Thousands gathered in the neighborhood of Sosua, Dominican Republic, to celebrate the life and mourn the loss of Oscar Taveras on Tuesday. Here in St. Louis, folks continued to stop by Busch Stadium. Several placed items at a growing memorial at the foot of the Stan Musial statue.

Here are some images from both scenes:

A mass is held for Oscar Taveras near his Dominican Republic home.

A mass is held for Oscar Taveras near his Dominican Republic home.

Thousands gather to pay their final respects to Oscar Taveras during a Tuesday burial service.

Thousands gather to pay their final respects to Oscar Taveras during a Tuesday burial service.

Cardinals right-hander Carlos Martinez, speaking through tears, talks about the loss and memory of his best friend.

Cardinals right-hander Carlos Martinez, speaking through tears, talks about the loss and memory of his best friend.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

Items from the memorial outside Busch Stadium.

In his own words: Xavier Scruggs on his friend, Oscar

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

They were teammates for years in the Cardinals’ minor league system, grew to be close friends along the way and shared the joy of both making their Major League debuts in 2014. Here is Xavier Scruggs, in his own words, on what it was like to call Oscar Taveras a teammate and then to say goodbye too soon.

As written by Scruggs:

Matthew 5:4 — Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. 

I am hurt. I can’t help but think that this a bad dream. Oscar Taveras was family. He brightened up every single person’s day with such an amazing smile. Both his smile and laughter couldn’t help but put you in a great mood. I am selfish to think about how I have lost a great teammate, an awesome friend, and an amazing person. I say I am selfish because to think that just I am affected by this tragedy is self-centered. So many people are affected by this loss; however we need to rejoice in the fact that Oscar was even in our lives. I can’t believe I was even blessed to play with someone with such great talent. His ability on the baseball field was unreal. There are so many times when I couldn’t help but think that this game was too easy for him. His fluidity as a hitter was unmatchable. His love for the game was remarkable. As a teammate, I would marvel at the fact that he would be so sincerely disappointed when he was not perfect. For we all know that it is impossible to be perfect in this game;, however he found a way to make it seem tangible. It is weird how baseball will bring you close to someone that you might not normally associate with in everyday life. He was a true friend from the Dominican Republic. I am honored to be playing in a country right now that he brought so much joy to. Language was no barrier when it came to Taveras and I. I know it to be the same with everyone who played with him. We shared far too many laughs that should happen on a baseball field, but those who knew Oscar know that was just him. A loose, full-of-energy guy. I cringe at the idea that he is gone;, however I will continue to think back upon the amazing times we had together. This past season when I was in Triple-A Memphis and he was making his Major League debut, I watched him homer for his first hit and I remember thinking ‘He never disappoints’. It didn’t surprise me because a moment too big for most was just an opportunity for Oscar to show the world his talent. The baseball community has lost someone truly special. My prayers go out to his family, as well as his girlfriend’s family and anyone who has been affected by his lost. Thank you Oscar for touching the lives of so many. You will never be forgotten. You will forever be in our hearts. OT18

Tu Hermano, 

Xavier Scruggs 

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