The St. Louis Cardinals took yet another turn on their backup outfielder carousel Friday, recalling Randal Grichuk from Triple-A Memphis and sending back Shane Robinson. This is the fourth change that they’ve made with the fifth outfielder position in two months, first swapping Grichuk for Robinson on April 28, quickly sending Grichuk back to Triple-A on May 9 in exchange for Joey Butler, swapping Butler for Robinson on May 21, and today making this move.
It should be interesting to see if Grichuk gets legitimate playing time this time around. After being given several starts in the early days of his Cardinals tenure, he was mainly limited to bench duty during his final days with the team, which coincided with incumbent center fielder Peter Bourjos beginning to show signs of life at the plate. Now with the righthanded-hitting Bourjos having gone 1 for his last 12, it would seem like another good opportunity to try to light a fire under him and plug Grichuk into the lineup again.
Grichuk’s certainly done everything he can to deserve a promotion since returning to Memphis, hitting .321 with seven homers and an insane 1.029 OPS. While no one’s expecting him to deliver a 2013 Yasiel Puig-like jolt to the lineup, Grichuk might provide a little boost to the Cardinals’ offense if he can even come close to replicating the success that he’s had over the past month at Memphis.
If anything, Grichuk will be a better righthanded bat off the bench than Robinson had been since his return. The scrappy Robinson was 0-for-4 when entering off the bench; in fact, all three of his hits during his second 2014 stint came during a May 22 start against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Having Grichuk’s hot bat available rather than relying on Robinson, a .237 career hitter, will be a bonus. Surely the Cardinals would have preferred to send Grichuk to bat last night with two outs and two runners on, but without him around Robinson got the pinch-hitting opportunity and flew out to end the game.
Another interesting aspect of this callup is that it may further delay the promotion of outfield prospect Oscar Taveras, which many fans had been hoping would happen prior to the Cardinals’ upcoming games against the Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays, where the designated hitter would be in play. While the Cardinals theoretically could send down Grichuk to create a roster spot for Taveras, that move wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense. It’s highly unlikely that the Cards will opt to pull the plug on either Bourjos or fellow veteran center fielder Jon Jay over the next few days. So with the move to recall Grichuk, it would seem that the only scenario for Taveras to come up would involve banged-up first baseman Matt Adams hitting the disabled list and Allen Craig moving full-time to first, which would create a spot in right field for Taveras. Even then, though, the Cardinals could opt to put Grichuk in right, which would further continue the concern over whether Taveras could receive consistent enough playing time to justify him being in the majors.