St. Louis Cardinals activate Dexter Fowler from DL, send down José Martínez

Dexter Fowler is healthy again, with José Martínez heading to Triple-A.

The St. Louis Cardinals announced on Friday afternoon that they’ve activated center fielder Dexter Fowler from the 10-day disabled list and optioned outfielder/first baseman José Martínez to Triple-A Memphis.

There was some talk, albeit extremely improbable, that Fowler, who has been out since June 25 with a right heel spur, could be displaced in center field by Tommy Pham upon his return from the DL. At least for now, though, that won’t be the case, as Fowler is in the starting lineup and batting third as the Cardinals host the Mets on Friday night.

This will be the first trip back to the minors this season for the 28-year-old Martínez, who forced his way onto the Opening Day roster with a great spring training.

Martínez was having a very good offensive season–there’s really no metric that indicates otherwise. In 135 plate appearances, he had a .280/.321/.464 slash line with five homers. But he didn’t really provide strong defense at any position, and he showed himself to be a liability at first base, where most of his opportunities were going to come going forward with Fowler, Pham, Stephen Piscotty, and Randal Grichuk in position to get most of the playing time in center field.

The Cardinals could have sent down Grichuk, but they’re apparently still in the midst of the stage where they want him to “sink or swim.” It’d be safe to say he’s sinking so far, as he’s 10 for 47 with four homers and four walks since being recalled, but he does provide a dynamic power presence that no other player on the Cardinals’ roster does.

Perhaps the better question is why they didn’t sent down infielder Alex Mejia, who is hitting .214 with no walks and just one extra-base hit (a home run) in 14 at-bats. Mejia hasn’t really done anything to indicate that he’s a major-league hitter, and while he could provide good defense at shortstop, he’s not in position to get much playing time going forward, as the Cardinals seem to have settled on Matt Carpenter and Paul DeJong as their primary middle-infield combo, and Greg Garcia is the primary backup at both second and short. Mejia will almost surely go down when Kolten Wong returns from the disabled list, but if the Cardinals are going to field a roster with their 25 best players, it would have made more sense to have Martínez on the team.

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