Prior to the Cardinals’ best-of-three National League Wild Card Series matchup against the Phillies on Friday morning, manager Oliver Marmol, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak, and other staff members had to make some crucial decisions.
Due to his versatility as a middle infielder, his left-handed bat, and the power profile he exhibits, rookie Nolan Gorman was selected ahead of similarly coveted left-handed batter Alec Burleson. One of the Cardinals’ best power prospects, Gorman has 89 games with 14 home runs, 13 doubles, and 35 runs batted in. Gorman, 22, had a disastrous final stretch, going 1-for-17 with eight strikeouts, and on September 19, he was transferred to Triple-A Memphis. In order to acquire controlled at-bats against MLB-caliber pitchers, Gorman, whose last MLB at-bat occurred on September 18, was added to the Cardinals’ taxi squad earlier this week.
Due in large part to two-time Gold Glove outfielder Tyler O’Neill’s ongoing hamstring ailment, rookie speedster Ben DeLuzio was added to the roster. DeLuzio is a potential to replace Yadier Molina or Albert Pujols in the late innings of games because of his ability to catch fly balls in the gap and his speed. Additionally, he is much more reliable in the outfield than fellow rookie Juan Yepez, who was chosen for the roster because of his potential slugging.
In place of Génesis Cabrera as the third left-handed reliever on the roster, Packy Naughton, a Spring Training signee who had been released by the Angels, was named. Since early in the season, when he was one of the Cardinals’ most reliable relievers, Cabrera lost his command and velocity. For months, the team had anticipated that he might restore them. The Cardinals decided to go with Naughton after being unimpressed with Cabrera’s final performance in Triple-A Memphis or what they had seen earlier in the week in Pittsburgh with the taxi squad. The strong southpaw has dazzled with his difficult mental fortitude, and he might be on the mound in crucial situations against prominent lefties Kyle Schwarber and Bryce Harper.
The All-Star closer Ryan Helsley jammed his pitching hand’s middle finger earlier in the week while attempting to stabilize himself after he staggered, giving the Cardinals a serious fright. Helsley was inspected by the team’s medical staff on Thursday, and on the day of practice, when he pitched in the bullpen, he had no trouble with his grip. Helsley was one of the top relievers in baseball with a 9-1 record, a 1.25 ERA, and 19 saves in 23 chances. Three times this season, he threw the MLB’s fastest pitch.
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