- There was a report Saturday stating that the Cardinals gave right-hander Carlos Martinez permission to leave the team Friday because of a civil lawsuit he’s facing in Florida. Now there’s more details on that suit, courtesy of TMZ (link via Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com). The woman suing Martinez is seeking upward of $1.5MM in damages for battery, negligent transmission of sexually transmitted diseases and fraud. She and Martinez have had an on-again, off-again relationship since 2012, according to her. As of Saturday, the Cardinals were in the process of determining whether the allegations against Martinez will lead to an investigation by Major League Baseball under its domestic violence rules. Martinez rejoined the Cardinals after his brief departure and started their game today.
- Cardinals shortstop Jhonny Peralta is progressing quickly in his recovery from left thumb surgery in March and could return to the majors later this month, reports Langosch. Peralta fielded grounders at short Sunday for the first time since the surgery, and the club currently plans for him to start a rehab assignment May 21. The Cardinals haven’t missed Peralta nearly as much as expected because of the virtuoso performance Aledmys Diaz has turned in at short, which means they’ll have to find a way to play both when Peralta returns. “What he’s doing, he needs to be on the team,” Peralta said of Diaz, who has hit .417/.447/.722 with four homers in the first 76 PAs of his big league career.
The Cardinals gave right-hander Carlos Martinez permission to leave the team Friday because of a civil lawsuit he’s facing in South Florida, ESPN reported (link via Dan O’Neill of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch), though he is now back with the club. “We are just learning of this matter. I was notified by Carlos’ agent the other night,” general manager John Mozeliak told ESPN. “We will not be in a position to act until we have more information.” Major League Baseball has not informed the Cardinals of any pending disciplinary action, according to Mozeliak. The club is in the process of determining whether the allegations made by the woman who filed the lawsuit will lead to a league investigation under its domestic violence rules, per O’Neill. Martinez, who has put up a 1.93 ERA, 6.43 K/9 and 2.57 BB/9 in four starts (28 innings) this season, is scheduled to take the mound for the Cardinals on Sunday.
More of the latest pitcher-related news from around the league:
- Hard-throwing reliever Ken Giles hasn’t come as advertised this year after the Astros gave up a Vincent Velasquez-headlined haul for the ex-Phillie during the offseason, and he told Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle that his issues are related to mechanics. “I’m not the guy I was the past two seasons. I’m somebody completely different on the mound, and I don’t feel comfortable up there. It’s just mechanical work,” he said. Giles was an elite reliever for the Phillies from 2014-15, combining for a 1.56 ERA with an 11.75 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 115 2/3 innings, but this season has been a nightmare for the 25-year-old. Though Giles’ strikeout and walk rates look fine (12.6 and 3.6, respectively), as does his velocity, he has already surrendered four home runs and 10 earned runs in 10 innings. Giles yielded a combined three homers and 20 earned runs during the previous two seasons. Thanks to his struggles, the Astros will “ease the burden of the eighth inning off of him a little bit,” manager A.J. Hinch said.
- Two prospective long-term cogs in the Reds’ rotation, right-handers Raisel Iglesias and Anthony DeSclafani, are dealing with injuries, as C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes. Iglesias, who’s scheduled to pitch Sunday, felt a “pinch” in his throwing shoulder Friday and underwent an examination today. The Reds will know more about his status later in the day, manager Bryan Price said. This isn’t the first time Iglesias’ shoulder has acted up: The 26-year-old dealt with fatigue last season and began his throwing program later in the spring as a result, Rosecrans notes. Iglesias has been stellar early this year, having tossed 28 1/3 innings of 3.49 ERA ball (9.21 K/9 and 2.22 BB/9) in five starts. DeSclafani, meanwhile, has been out all season with a left oblique strain and felt a “sensation” in his side during a 77-pitch rehab start Friday. “We’re really doing everything we can to avoid a setback. He was good until the last inning or so, and then it was an issue,” Price stated.
- Angels lefty Andrew Heaney won’t need surgery on the forearm strain that has kept him out for nearly all of April, but he still hasn’t been cleared to throw, according to Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register and Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com (Twitter links). Heaney will receive a platelet-rich plasma injection in his left arm, which will keep him out for six to 12 more weeks, GM Billy Eppler said (Twitter link via Fletcher). Heaney started for the Halos on April 5 and put up a decent line against the Cubs (six innings, seven strikeouts, no walks, seven hits, four runs), but he complained of left forearm tightness afterward and landed on the disabled list the next day.
- Cardinals GM John Mozeliak says shortstop Jhonny Peralta, who had thumb surgery in March, could be set to begin a rehab assignment in about three weeks, Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. That timetable means Peralta might return to the team early in June. Mozeliak notes, though, that the team will still find ways to use rookie Aledmys Diaz, who’s batting a remarkable .420/.452/.739 while playing mostly shortstop so far this season.
- Interestingly, it’s been quite the opposite tale at short for the Cardinals, who were noted as an organization with hypothetical trade interest in Aybar after losing Jhonny Peralta this spring. Instead, Aledmys Diaz has knocked the cover off of the ball, as ESPN.com’s Mark Saxon explains. Diaz is hitting at a ridiculous .480/.509/.860 clip through 53 plate appearances, and while his .477 BABIP will undoubtedly fall, he’s also recorded only three strikeouts on the year to go with three walks. And though he has recorded five errors at short, his metrics grade out at average (in an undeniably tiny sample). All told, Diaz has already racked up 1.4 fWAR, checking in at fourth in the big leagues by that measure of total value. Trevor Story may have occupied the early headlines, but Diaz has actually been much more productive overall and has perhaps shown a more sustainable, better-rounded offensive skillset.
Grichuk, 24, came to the Cardinals alongside Peter Bourjos in the 2013 trade that sent David Freese and Fernando Salas to the Angels. Grichuk was one of two first-round picks by the Angels in the 2009 draft, going 24th overall as compensation for the loss of Francisco Rodriguez to the Mets. (The Angels took Mike Trout with the following selection.) While he never cemented himself as a consensus top prospect around the league, Grichuk had a very strong rookie campaign with St. Louis last year (after a so-so MLB debut in 2014) when he slashed .276/.329/.548 with 17 home runs in 350 plate appearances. That production was aided by an inflated .365 batting average on balls in play, and Grichuk has come back to Earth in that regard early in 2016. However, he’s also made significant strides in his walk rate (6.3 percent in 2015, 13.6 percent in 2016) and strikeout rate (31.4 percent in ’15, 25.8 percent in ’16), so there’s reason to believe that he can improve on this year’s .228/.333/.439 line if he can sustain some of those gains.
With a year and 61 days of service time, Grichuk is controllable through the 2020 season and won’t reach arbitration eligibility until the conclusion of the 2017 campaign. He’ll fall a good bit shy of Super Two designation assuming he’s in the Majors to stay, so he’ll be arb-eligible the standard three times. While it’s impossible to say exactly what type of impact an agency change will have on a player’s long-term status with an organization, Cardinals fans may be interested to see that Excel Sports has brokered its fair share of extensions over the years, negotiating long-term pacts for the likes of Alex Gordon, Freddie Freeman, Chris Johnson and, most recently, Brandon Belt (MLBTR Extension Tracker link). Grichuk’s own teammate and fellow Each of those deals came when the player had already reached arbitration eligibility.
In addition to the players listed above, Excel represents a wide swath of players, including Zack Greinke, Jason Heyward, Dexter Fowler and Masahiro Tanaka, among others. All of that info can be found in the MLBTR Agency Database, which contains information on more than 2,500 Major League and Minor League players. If you see any notable omissions or errors within the database, please let us know via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Heyward received a bit of a rough welcome back to St. Louis today, as he appeared there for the first time since leaving the Cardinals for the rival Cubs. But that didn’t seem to bother him; as he told reporters, including MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat (Twitter link): “If somebody boos me here, that means they weren’t happy to see me leave. I’m glad people weren’t happy to see me leave.” He’s already covered his decision to move on to Chicago in some detail, of course, but the occasion offered a chance to revisit the winter market once again. As Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports, Heyward ultimately spurned the Cards not out of any failure to see eye-to-eye on a contract, but because he had found another spot he preferred. “It came down to Chicago was really where I would like to be at the time,” Heyward said. “… I feel like [the Cardinals] had every intention of keeping me here. They said that. And they followed that through with their actions. It didn’t come down to contract. Whether it was the opt-out, whether it was the full no-trade (clause), or what have you — it came down to taking the opportunity to be where I wanted to be and for the first time in my life having the choice.”
- Former Korean and Japanese league reliever Seung-hwan Oh has made a seamless transition to the Cardinals’ bullpen in his first year in the majors and is primed to earn more responsibility, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. The South Korea native has allowed a mere one hit in 6 2/3 scoreless innings, adding a whopping 11 strikeouts against five walks. The righty threw two shutout frames Saturday and successfully retired one of the game’s premier left-handed hitters, the Reds’ Joey Votto. With first base open, Oh could’ve pitched around Votto, but he challenged the first baseman and ultimately retired him on a fly out. “We like his stuff against lefties,” manager Mike Matheny said. “We’re going to get more opportunities to see (it).” More Oh could mean less Seth Maness, who has an unimpressive K/BB (1.5) and bloated 8.31 ERA in 4 1/3 innings this year.
- After beginning the season in a 1-for-15 funk with eight strikeouts and no walks, Cardinals center fielder Randal Grichuk has since gone 6 of 17 with four extra-base hits (two home runs, two doubles), eight walks and four K’s. Thanks in part to his work with a pitching machine called a Hack Attack, Grichuk is now seeing pitches better. Prior to his turnaround, Grichuk stood in the cage at Turner Field last week and watched nearly 50 sliders from the machine. “The first few, maybe five to 10, I just took. The last 30 to 40 I would call out if it was a ball or strike as soon as I could pick it up,” he told Goold. Said assistant hitting coach Derrick May, “Just seeing pitches and building the strength of their eyes with work. What better to do it than with a slider machine?”
- After missing nearly all of last season with a torn Achilles, longtime Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright’s return hasn’t gone according to plan. In 5 1/3 innings Saturday, Wainwright allowed 10 hits and seven earned runs while striking out just two hitters in a 9-8 loss to the Reds. The 34-year-old walked only one batter – a big improvement over the combined eight free passes he issued in his first two starts – but he now owns an 8.27 ERA in 16 1/3 innings this month. Nevertheless, he expects to break out of his funk. “What I will and can say is I will come out of this, and I will be a very, very good pitcher. I’m just not there right now,” he said, according to Joe Harris of MLB.com. Wainwright will try to right the ship against the offensively challenged Padres next Friday.
The Pirates have shut down top catching prospect Elias Diaz due to concern over lingering soreness in his right elbow, tweets Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Diaz is seeking “multiple opinions” on the injury, but as Stephen J. Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweets, there’s concern about structural damage. The 25-year-old Diaz spent last season at Triple-A Indianapolis, where he batted .271/.330/.382 in 363 plate appearances. Baseball America, MLB.com and Keith Law of ESPN rank Diaz as the Pirates’ No. 10, No. 8 and No. 14 prospect, respectively. Each of the scouting reports notes that his defensive prowess gives him a high floor, but his bat, too, has come around recently and given him a chance to be an everyday catcher at the Major League level.
More from the NL Central…
- There’s better news on injured Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang, as MLB.com’s Adam Berry tweets. Kang has been cleared to play extended Spring Training games without any restrictions or limitations. He’s played five innings on consecutive days to this point but can now take his progress another step further. Kang is recovering from torn ligaments in his knee suffered late in the 2015 campaign when he was injured on a takeout slide by then-Cubs utilityman Chris Coghlan.
- Turning to another Diaz within the NL Central, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch writes that the strong early play of Aledmys Diaz has probably taken away some playing time from Spring Training signee Ruben Tejada, who is nearing his regular season Cardinals debut after straining his left quadriceps in the team’s Grapefruit League finale. “We signed Ruben to give us depth,” GM John Mozeliak tells Langosch. “One of the things we wanted to do was allow Diaz to play. At the time, the thinking was to give him at-bats at Memphis and let him continue to grow. Well, guess what? That didn’t happen. He had to come here and now he’s getting a chance to play at the Major League level and he’s taking full advantage of that.”
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports spoke to Mozeliak, Cardinals outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker and agent Joe Bick (who represents Hazelbaker) about the 28-year-old’s improbable journey from being released by the Dodgers in May 2015 to being one of the biggest stories of the early 2016 season. While Hazelbaker, who entered play today 10-for-19 with two homers and two steals, is of course due to come back down to Earth, he did make some notable adjustments to his swing mechanics upon signing a minors deal with St. Louis last season, which may have contributed to the best minor league numbers of his career. Hazelbaker was a minor league free agent at season’s end and received quite a few offers, and Mozeliak admits that the club gambled somewhat by not promising him the 40-man roster spot Hazelbaker and Bick sought. The Cards did offer him a hefty minor league salary, and injuries to Tejada and Tommy Pham created an opportunity on the big league roster. After thinking his career could be over last May, Hazelbaker says he has a vastly different outlook on the game. “I treat every game like it’s my last,” says Hazelbaker. “The last diving catch I’m going to have, the last flyball, the last stolen base or at-bat … that’s kind of how I go about it now.”
- Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and his staff could have assembled one of the most disciplined teams ever, writes Fangraphs’ August Fagerstrom. While these Cubs won’t walk as much as some clubs did during higher-offensive eras like the late 90s and early 2000s, walks in today’s game are exponentially harder to come by. Fagerstrom looks at the Cubs’ early walk rate and uses ZiPS and Steamer projections relative to those numbers for the rest of the league to note that the Cubs are three standard deviations above the mean and are as far from the second-place team (Oakland) as that team is from the 11th-place team. Wearing pitchers down with a disciplined approach has long been a trademark of Epstein clubs, Fagerstrom notes, and this year’s team is no exception.
Cardinals left-hander Marco Gonzales will undergo Tommy John surgery to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak confirmed to reporters, including Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Twitter link). Gonzales has reportedly been weighing surgery to repair an elbow problem, though the specific nature of the surgery, to this point, had not been definitively reported.
The 24-year-old Gonzales was St. Louis’ top pick in the 2013 draft (19th overall) and made his Major League debut with the Cardinals the next season, appearing in 10 games (five starts) and recording a 4.15 ERA with 8.0 K/9, 5.5 BB/9 and a 36.3 percent ground-ball rate in 34 2/3 innings. Gonzales, who rates as the Cardinals’ No. 7 prospect at MLB.com and No. 5 according to Baseball America, missed a significant portion of the 2015 season due to shoulder troubles. He pitched at Class-A Advanced, Double-A and Triple-A, compiling a 4.69 ERA in the minors. Gonzales also tossed 2 2/3 innings in the Majors last year.
The Cardinals’ pitching ranks have been thinned out substantially in the past nine months, with Gonzales and right-hander Lance Lynn each falling to Tommy John procedures. Beyond that, No. 1 prospect Alex Reyes, a right-hander, received a 50-game suspension back in November. The Cards added right-hander Mike Leake on a five-year deal in the offseason to replenish some of the depth in their rotation, which presently features Leake, Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez and Jaime Garcia. Left-hander Tim Cooney, who made six starts for St. Louis last season, is the likeliest candidate to be recalled and step into the rotation should a need arise.