Cards Grab Matt Wieters

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The Cardinals have agreed to a minor-league deal with veteran catcher Matt Wieters, per Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (via Twitter). Salary terms are not yet known.
While he held out in hopes of securing a MLB commitment, the 32-year-old Wieters will settle instead for a chance to serve as a backup to Yadier Molina. The competition is fairly limited. Francisco Pena seemingly held the edge at the outset of camp after re-joining the organization on a minors pact. Joe Hudson is the only other backstop in camp with MLB experience.
Wieters can still put the ball over the fence, and posted career-best plate discipline marks in 2018, but he has not been very productive with the bat of late. Since the start of the 2016 season, he’s producing at only a .235/.303/.376 rate through 1,200 trips to the plate. That’s a far cry from the .254/.317/.436 output that Wieters managed over the prior half-decade.
Wieters isn’t generally regarded as a high-quality overall defender at this stage of his career, and fares poorly in particular in pitch-framing metrics, but does still block, throw, and manage a staff well. It’s possible there’s still some hope that he’ll restore some of his lost luster with the bat, making this a nice low-risk move for the St. Louis organization.
For the Cards, the addition deepens the catching unit as Molina closes in on his 37th birthday and works to recover from an offseason knee procedure. The switch-hitting Wieters has historically performed better against right-handed pitching, as has Molina, but neither carries significant career platoon splits. If Wieters can beat out Pena for the job, he seems like a potentially solid mate for Molina.

Source: Jeff Todd

Carlos Martinez Shoulder Woes Continue

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Cardinals right-hander Carlos Martinez is wearing a sling on his right arm in camp this morning, and manager Mike Shildt revealed to reporters that the right-hander received a platelet-rich plasma injection yesterday and is still two weeks from throwing (Twitter links via Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch). Goold reported overnight that Martinez was headed for a second opinion on his right shoulder and now adds that if Martinez is ready for Opening Day — which is not a certainty — he’ll be in a relief role.
Shoulder troubles in 2018 also sent Martinez to a bullpen role late in the year, and he’ll apparently reprise that role for at least some of the 2019 season. Subtracting him from the early rotation mix would give the Cards a group of Miles Mikolas, Jack Flaherty, Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright and one of Alex Reyes, John Gant, Dakota Hudson, Austin Gomber and Daniel Ponce de Leon — barring an addition from outside the organization, of course. Left-handers Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez are the top two unsigned starters on the market, while other depth options include Clay Buchholz and old friend Edwin Jackson.
Goold noted within his column that Reyes’ early work in spring is thrusting him into the conversation for an Opening Day rotation spot. But, it should be noted that the right-hander only threw a combined 27 innings between the Majors and Minors in 2017-18 combined as he rehabbed from Tommy John surgery and then underwent shoulder to repair a torn tendon in his lat last June. Reyes has never reached 120 innings in a professional season, and the Cards will surely want to monitor his workload in 2019. In other words, if he does open the year as a starter, it seems unlikely that he’d be expected to hold that role all season. Even if that is the organization’s hope, his injury history suggests that he can’t be penciled in for that type of workload.
Moving Martinez to the bullpen may not be ideal, but when he’s eventually healthy, he should make for a high-quality pairing with offseason signee Andrew Miller and flamethrowing sophomore Jordan Hicks. That trio would be joined by some combination of Luke Gregerson, Brett Cecil, Dominic Leone, Chasen Shreve and perhaps some of the aforementioned rotation candidates who don’t ultimately claim a starting role. For now, the more immediate focus is on the strength and overall health of Martinez’s shoulder, as there’s an increasing chance that the Cardinals’ 2018 Opening Day starter will now open the 2019 season on the injured list rather than anywhere on the active roster.

Source: Steve Adams

Martinez Receives Two Year Deal

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The St. Louis Cardinals announced today that they have signed outfielder José Martínez to a two-year contract (2019-20). Financial terms of the new deal were not disclosed.
“José has been a key contributor to our team since his acquisition in 2016, and we’re pleased to announce this new two-year deal,” stated Cardinals’ President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak. “José has proven to be a key member of our roster and he is someone who brings high energy and passion for our team and its fans.”
Martínez, 30, led the Cardinals in batting (.305) and hits (163) in 2018, finishing 7th among National League batting leaders. The right-handed hitting outfielder finished 2nd among the team’s RBI leaders in 2018, with 42 of those RBI coming with two outs, ranking 3rd in the Senior Circuit to Trevor Story (57) and Christian Yelich (52).
Martínez, the son of the late former Major Leaguer Carlos Martínez, played in 887 games in the minors before making his Major League debut with the Cardinals in 2016. The Venezuela native owns a .408 career batting mark (20-for-49) as a pinch-hitter, ranking 2nd all-time in MLB history (min. 50 plate appearances) to Kevin Seitzer (.411).

Source: St. Louis Cardinals

Dodgers Don Newcombe Passed Away

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Former Los Angeles Dodgers pitching great Don Newcombe has died at the age of 92 after a lengthy illness, the team announced on Tuesday.
“Don Newcombe’s presence and life established him as a role model for major leaguers across the country,” Dodgers president Stan Kasten said in a statement. “He was a constant presence at Dodger Stadium and players always gravitated toward him for his endless advice and friendship. The Dodgers meant everything to him and we are all fortunate he was a part of our lives.”

Newcombe started his big league career as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1949 and won Rookie of the Year. After a break to serve in the military during the 1952 and ’53 seasons, he returned and with the likes of Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, Pee Wee Reese and Roy Campanella helped create a World Series champion.
In 1955, the Dodgers won it all, and Newcombe went 20-5 with a 3.20 ERA.

His best season on the mound came in 1956 when he led the league with 27 wins and won the Cy Young and MVP awards.
He never reached some lofty heights again. After and 0-6 start to the season in Los Angeles, he was traded to the Reds.
Newcombe finished his 10-year career as a four-time All-Star with a 149-90 record and 3.56 ERA.

Source: ESPN

Martinez Shut Down

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The Cardinals have shut down righty Carlos Martinez from throwing for two weeks, per MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch Twitter links). While there’s no concern of structural damage, the club believes that the hurler needs to build up shoulder strength.
Given the timing of the news, it seems reasonable to anticipate that Martinez will not be ready to join the rotation on Opening Day. There are indications the club may prefer to utilize him in a relief capacity, though even in that case it’d seem prudent to chart a conservative course. Beyond the immediate needs, the Cards have to protect their future investment in Martinez ($34.5MM over three years, plus two options).
Martinez, 27, has mostly been healthy and productive since joining the Cards’ rotation on a full-time basis in 2015. But he has dealt with some health issues in that time. Things came to a head last season, when shoulder troubles sidelined him for a stretch and forced him to return as a relief pitcher late in the season.
It’s hard to know just what to make of this latest news. Martinez could respond well to the strengthening program and jump right back into action. Then again, the shoulder is a complicated part of the body; uncertainty there is most unwelcome for any hurler. We’ll just have to see how Martinez progresses. For the Cards, the news represents an early test of the club’s pitching depth.

Source: Jeff Todd

Gyorko Ready to fit in Anywhere

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Uncertainty is hardly something new for Jedd Gyorko, who has been through this exercise before. It’s one in which he comes into camp assured a spot on the roster, but not necessarily one on the field.
His fit became a little less obvious following the acquisition of first baseman Paul Goldschmidt in December. That move prompted one for Matt Carpenter, who now plans to make third base his everyday home. That was where Gyorko made 71 starts last year.
So with the corner infield spots set and Paul DeJong and Kolten Wong returning to cover the club up the middle, Gyorko once again profiles as the team’s primary utility infielder. His work at all four infield spots this spring will reflect that.

“Any time you can get a guy like Goldschmidt, it’s huge for the team,” Gyorko said. “Unfortunately, it kind of puts me in a weird spot where I don’t really have a spot or a clear role. But in today’s game, you have to have that guy who can give guys breaks where it’s not that big of a [production] dropoff, and where you’re not losing power. You have to have a guy who can fill in or do well in situations.”
Gyorko also knows how quickly things can change. In his first year with the Cardinals, he ended up helping fill in for an injured Jhonny Peralta and an inconsistent Wong. In 2017, an ineffective combination of Aledmys Diaz and Peralta on the left side of the infield led to sweeping changes and more at-bats for Gyorko than initially anticipated.
Last year was the exception, as Gyorko entered camp projected to be the team’s everyday third baseman. Incidentally, he finished with the fewest plate appearances (402) of his six Major League seasons.

“It’s hard to tell sitting here on February whatever-it-is exactly how the season is going to go,” Gyorko said. “Things are going to happen. It’s just how it works. Stuff is going to go weird and not how you want it. It’s hard to predict. I’m just getting myself prepared like I do every year to go out there and play every day.”
Preparation this spring will require flexibility. Gyorko will see time at all four infield spots, though he’ll likely be used most often at second and third base this season. His career .819 OPS against left-handed pitching makes him an intriguing candidate to sub in for either of the team’s two left-handed-hitting infielders (Wong and Carpenter) against lefty starters.
Gyorko even offered to engage in some outfield work as a way to increase his versatility. It’s unlikely the Cardinals will have him dabble in that too heavily, mostly because of a lack of need.
“Jedd knows he has a lot of gloves in his bag,” manager Mike Shildt noted.
Gyorko is also aware of how important health will be. Hamstring strains knocked him out for stretches in both 2017 and ’18. He also missed time late last season due to a groin injury. In an effort to try and combat the recurrence of lower body injuries, Gyorko added more running into his offseason workouts. He also packed on a few additional pounds of muscle.
“I think I’ve prepared myself as much as I can,” Gyorko said. “Right now, I feel really good, and I feel like I’m in a really good spot.”
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.