St. Louis Cardinals Likely to Have Roster Shakeup Friday, According to Reports


According to a Thursday evening tweet from longtime St. Louis Cardinals beat writer Rob Rains, a roster shakeup is likely for the team on Friday as they get ready for a weekend series against the Philadelphia Phillies:

This report is supported by the fact that neither Garcia or Scruggs was in Triple-A Memphis’s lineup for their Thursday night meeting with the Oklahoma City Dodgers. Garcia, a 25-year-old infielder, has been Memphis’s top hitter this season, batting .313 with a .405 OBP this season, though he’s had minimal power and has no homers thus far.

Scruggs, a 27-year-old first baseman who can also play in left or right field, leads the Redbirds with 11 homers and 35 RBI. He has a less-than-stellar .251 batting average, which is 18 points below the PCL’s .269 league average, but he has an .851 OPS, which is tops among Memphis’s qualifying hitters. He played in one major-league game earlier this season, flying out to left field in one at-bat as a pinch hitter.

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Both players saw some big-league action in 2014, though neither was particularly impressive. Garcia went 2-for-14 (.143), with his biggest highlight being a walk-off hit by pitch against the Chicago Cubs on May 13. Scruggs went 3-for-15 (.200) with his trademark power being completely wiped out against big-league pitching, as he had just one extra-base hit, a double on September 9.

Despite their lack of success as rookies in 2014, both players have the chance to fill holes on the Cardinals’ roster. Garcia has the opportunity to provide a lefthanded bat off the Cardinals’ bench, which the currently do not have on days where they use their regular infield group with an outfield of Jon Jay, Peter Bourjos, and Jason Heyward. Scruggs, meanwhile, provides a legitimate backup for starting first baseman Mark Reynolds, who has played every inning at first since the man he replaced, Matt Adams, went down with a season-ending quad injury on May 26.

The two easiest moves to create space for Scruggs and Garcia would be to demote third-string catcher Ed Easley, who has done little more than catch ceremonial first pitches since his May 27 recall, logging three plate appearances and four innings behind the plate, as well as righthanded reliever Miguel Socolovich, who has not pitched since being recalled on June 9. That would restore the Cardinals to a standard 12-man pitching staff and five-man bench, which is reasonable considering that the offense is fading, while Socolovich has yet to pitch in June, righty Mitch Harris has not pitched in 10 days, and long reliever Carlos Villanueva has pitched just 15 times through 66 games this season.

With that said, it would not be very surprising if the Cardinals finally decided to designate utility infielder Pete Kozma for assignment. Kozma, a career .223 major-league hitter who hit just .238 as a minor-leaguer, dropped under the dreaded .100 mark on Wednesday night. He now has a slash line of .098/.164/.098 for the season, and as his slugging percentage indicates, he has yet to record an extra-base hit through 51 at-bats. Though Kozma’s presence enables the Cards to work with a four-man bench rather easily since he can play at least six positions defensively, his offensive ineptitude may have reached the point where there’s no argument for having him on the 25-man roster.

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While Garcia doesn’t have quite as much experience at third base as Kozma does, the duo of Scruggs and Garcia could take over Kozma’s super-utility role, as Garcia could provide coverage at second, third, and short with Scruggs adding depth at first base and the outfield corners. Kozma has been the team’s designated “emergency catcher” this season and has caught some bullpen sessions to prepare for possible spot duty behind the plate. With the extreme infrequency with which Yadier Molina is removed from games, however, it’s nearly impossible that there would ever be a scenario in which the team needed to use an infielder or outfielder as a catcher.  The Cardinals haven’t used a non-catcher behind the plate since April 11 of 2010, when outfielder Nick Stavinoha moved behind the plate as part of a double switch with two outs in the ninth inning. Also, if Easley somehow survives Friday’s shakeup, there’d be even less of a need for an extra player with catching experience.

If the Cardinals do indeed bring up Garcia and Scruggs on Friday, it’s likely that Reynolds and third baseman Matt Carpenter will each be given a day off in the near future. Carpenter, who is hitting just .188 with one extra-base hit during the month of June, has started every game since May 20, while Reynolds has been in the lineup every day since May 27. They’re the only two Cardinals position players who have yet to get a rest in June.

Next: How Soon Until the Cardinals Give Up on Pete Kozma?