St. Louis Cardinals Place Brayan Peña on 15-Day Disabled List, Recall Alberto Rosario

Feb 21, 2015; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Jordan Walden (left) talks with catcher Alberto Rosario (right) during practice drills at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 21, 2015; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Jordan Walden (left) talks with catcher Alberto Rosario (right) during practice drills at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

Just two starts into the Brayan Peña era, the St. Louis Cardinals have placed the veteran backup catcher back on the disabled list.

After he started just two games and played in another two for the St. Louis Cardinals, veteran backup catcher Brayan Peña is heading back to the 15-day disabled list with knee inflammation.

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The team has recalled catcher

Alberto Rosario

from Triple-A Memphis to replace him on the roster. The 29-year-old Rosario will be making his big-league debut in his 11th professional season.

Peña rejoined the Cardinals’ roster just eight days ago, having missed all of the season to that point after undergoing surgery to repair a loose body in his knee at the beginning of the regular season. The move forced the front office’s hand, as the roster wasn’t constructed in a way that it would be feasible to carry three catchers. In theory, the Cardinals could have decided to eat Pena’s two-year, $5 million-dollar contract before he ever played in a game, but instead they decided to designate Eric Fryer, Peña’s fill-in, for assignment.

The 30-year-old Fryer had mostly been a minor-leaguer through his career to date, and he had several cups of coffee with the Minnesota Twins and Pittsburgh Pirates. Unfortunately, he spent enough time in the majors that all his minor-league options were gone, and the Cardinals had to expose him to waivers after they removed him from their 25-man roster. With a .368/.415/.421 slash line (albeit in just 41 plate appearances), Fryer was a hot commodity, and he was claimed by the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday.

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With Fryer gone, the Cardinals will turn to Rosario, who immediately surpasses Jeremy Hazelbaker as the greatest story of 2016. Rosario has spent most of his career serving as an organizational catcher, moving around to play at whatever level he’s been needed at with no real regard for his development. He’s spent plenty of time on the minor-league disabled list when he wasn’t actually injured, and he’s surely spent many a game catching in the bullpen without ever seeing live action.

After jumping around between the Los Angeles Angels, Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, and Cardinals organizations and spending three of the past four seasons splitting time between Double-A and Triple-A, Rosario finally got a legitimate shot at Triple-A Memphis this year. In 124 plate appearances, Rosario hit .281/.323/.325. Most importantly, Rosario has established himself behind the plate. Reliever Sam Tuivailala raved about him after he was recalled to the major leagues last week.

Brayan Pena St. Louis Cardinals
Jul 1, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Matt Bowman (67) celebrates with catcher Brayan Pena (33) after defeating the Milwaukee Brewers at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals won 7-1. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /

While no prognosis has been provided for Peña’s recovery yet, here’s to guessing that he won’t be out much longer than the 15-day stint that he’s required to spend on the DL. Otherwise, the Cardinals likely would have called up Michael McKenry, who has six seasons of major-league experience and is tearing the cover off the ball (.329/.424/.620) in 79 at-bats at Memphis. They’re probably afraid of losing him on waivers–just like they did with Fryer–after Peña returns, since McKenry doesn’t have any minor-league options remaining. In contrast, Rosario has all his options left, and as a guy who’s basically spent a large chunk of his minor-league career as a bullpen catcher, the Cardinals could probably even sneak him off the 40-man roster without facing consequences after Peña returns.

There’s been quite a bit of complaining via social media from Cardinals fans that are upset with the organization for designating Fryer, then placing Peña right back on the DL just more than a week later. While that’s somewhat justified–there should have been no doubt that his injury was totally healed before he was brought back–perhaps the guy who they should be most upset with is catcher Cody Stanley.

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Though Stanley had been suspended for a PED violation in 2012, which he later apologized and expressed regret for, he came back up last season at the age of 26 and looked like he could be Yadier Molina‘s backup for the foreseeable future. Stanley received an 80-game suspension in early September after testing positive for steroids, though, and that spurned his release from the organization this past winter. If Stanley had stayed clean, the Cardinals would have had a low-cost backup option and never would have had to sign Fryer in the first place, so in a way, the organization’s current catching fiasco can be attributed to him.