A Call(up) to Arms

Seriously. Pedro F. Alvarez. You've got to be kidding me.

Huh. So that sucked, huh?

Getting embarrassed like that, when the Cardinals had a chance to put the Pirates in a corner, is just unacceptable. But, that's been largely the M.O. of this team all season, I suppose.

Losing Yadier Molina would be even worse, and that play at the plate is going to stick in my personal craw for quite some time. I already wrote a little piece on it this morning, and I happen to agree largely with what bgh had to say on the subject last night: something needs to change. At the very least, I'm worried about Molina as both the most important player on this team and a possible future manager; I'm really not looking forward to Yadi's cognitive difficulties leading to things like excessive bunting and poor bullpen management.

Anyhow, I had something else planned this morning, and given the lack of any good news for the Cardinals and having the collision already nicely covered, I'm going to go ahead with my original plan.

Today is the 29th of August. In case you don't happen to have a calender in front of you, that date indicates two things: one, the end of August is very close. Two, September is also very close. And September means callups. Reinforcements, sent from the minor leagues to piss off certain managers and broadcasters with nothing better to do than bitch about other teams doing what's best for their own teams, rather than playing out the string on a losing cause with what didn't work in the first place, just so there won't be more bitching later on.

So who do the Cardinals call up? Well, I'm glad you asked, mostly because if you hadn't (and I'm well aware the question posed is most likely in my head only; I'm okay with that), then I wouldn't have much of a column this morning.

Under Tony La Russa, the Cardinals used their potential roster spots sparingly, never carrying the full complement of 40 players, and rarely going much over 30. A couple extra relievers, maybe a slappy something or other, and that was about it. Very rarely did the team go in for serious auditions in the final month of the season. Of course, in fairness it must be said that was only partially about the personality and proclivities of the manager himself. The Cardinals have, more often than not, found themselves in the hunt for a playoff spot in September the past decade or so, which tends to limit the opportunity for audition and experimentation both.

The Cards are in a pennant race again this season -- though, come to think of it, 'pennant race' really doesn't make any kind of sense at all anymore; it hasn't really for a long time, but each additional move toward the everybody-gets-in format of the NHL, NBA, and children's leagues everywhere makes the term even more ridiculous -- which could once again impact the number of players they call up. However, Mike Matheny is a different manager from Tony La Russa, which really makes this year's callups pretty much anyone's guess.

Here's how I see things playing out: I think guys like Maikel Cleto, Trevor Rosenthal, Barret Browning, and Ryan Jackson are locks. Relievers are obviously the most common way to use these extra spots, and a damned good use of them as well if I do say so myself. Jackson would still be here if not for the injury to Molina. Bryan Anderson is already with the team, and I expect him to stick around the remainder of the season. Eduardo Sanchez, as iffy as he has been this season, is almost surely in line to come back up as well.

That's where things start to get interesting. Let's take a look at some of the other names we may or may not see called up, shall we?

Adron Chambers -- Chambers is almost a lock, I would think. He can play centerfield quite well and has quietly had a very nice season at Memphis. (An OPS of just .796, but an OBP of .399!) I personally prefer him to Shane Robinson every day of the week, but his lefthandedness makes him less useful in platoon terms. Chances of callup: ~90%

Sam Freeman -- Freeman looked scared and lost earlier this season in the big leagues, but he's been outstanding in Triple A, with a 1.74 ERA on the year. Walks were the big issue for Freeman in the majors, with seven free passes given in only 12.0 innings, but that hasn't been nearly as much of a problem for him in the minor leagues. I love the electric arm and the fact he's left-handed; personally, I'm hoping Freeman gets a shot. Chances of callup: ~65%

Adam Riefer -- Now here's a guy I would really like to see at the big league level. Only problem is, since coming back from a knee injury which virtually wiped out his 2011 campaign, Reifer just hasn't been all that good. His strikeouts were way down this year (just 43 in 63.0 innings), he's given up homers at a terrifying pace (11 this season), and his velocity isn't quite the same as it was. It's all added up to a 4.97 ERA for Reifer in 2012 as he has slid from potential first reliever up at the beginning of 2011 to a virtual afterthought. Chances of callup: 25%

Pete Kozma -- Oy. Kozma the Not so Great Nor so Powerful has a .650 OPS this season in the Pacific Coast League. That's not a great number. That being said, the fact is Kozma is capable of playing shortstop, and the Cards may want to spell their other middle infielders a bit, particularly Rafael Furcal. Chances of callup: 50%

Steven Hill -- What Steven Hill offers is a bench bat, a right-handed one to boot, and an emergency catcher. Before Yadi got socked last night I kind of would have doubted Hill would receive a call, but I'm thinking now he just might see some action. Chances of callup: ~60%

That takes care of all the players on the 40-man roster I think we could expect to see brought up. Now, just for shits and/or giggles, here are a couple other that we can all wonder over. These are, to be honest, the really interesting calls.

Tyler Lyons -- I put Lyons on my list of sleeper prospects way back in March; I'm hoping he gets the nod to come to the big leagues just for that reason alone. The good news for Lyons: he's a lefty and owns an 88/17 strikeout to walk ratio in Triple A. The bad news: he's not particularly LOOGY-ish and has an ERA of 4.23, which isn't bad in context of the PCL but doesn't exactly jump out at you. Personally, I don't see Lyons getting a call, though I would like to see it.

John Gast -- Another lefty, and owner of a pickoff move that looks like a magic trick. Gast was excellent in Double A Springfield this season, but has struggled in his first taste of Triple A since being promoted, to the tune of a 5.51 ERA. I don't think he gets called up either, but I have to admit to being intrigued by the idea of what he could do in a relief role, inserted into a situation with a man on first.

Shelby Miller -- Ah, Shelby. The most intriguing name, and the most debatable, on this list. (Well, there is one other guy one here who is mighty interesting...) We all know the story by now, of Shelby coming into spring training all Calista Flockhart-y, then pitched just brutally for most of the season. But, hey, guy has been pretty decent lately, what with winning the PCL Pitcher of the Week award last week and posting a 57/4 K:BB ratio over his last 8 starts.

The problem, of course, is all the potential contract ramifications bringing Shelby up now could have. Even a month ago, it looked as if there was exactly zero chance we might see Miller this year. Now, well, I'm not so sure. Personally, I want it to happen as a fan of this team, both because of the opportunity to see him pitching on the mound at Busch and because I think he could help this Cardinal team right now. I have no idea what the Cards are thinking on this one.

Oscar Taveras -- And here's the positional counterpart to Shelby's pitcher dilemma. Oscar Taveras is one of the top contenders for Minor League Player of the Year -- not the organisational one; the overall one -- and is looking more and more like a stud in the making.

The idea of calling Taveras up directly from Double A is a little crazy, perhaps. Still, there are plenty of indications the Cardinals are at least considering it, and that's less crazy and more crazy exciting. Much like Shelby Miller, though, there is the future to think about. What do you think?

I considered adding Kolten Wong to this list, but considering his mediocre performance at Springfield this season I just don't see any chance he's coming up. At the beginning of the season I thought he would be in St. Louis come September; instead he's shown little power and has had a tough time adjusting to the level of competition in Double A. Perhaps he's not quite as close as we thought he was.

So, of the guys here, who do you want to see? Who do you think we'll see? And more importantly, who do you want to see?

'Til next Wednesday, y'all. Happy September in the meantime.

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