On Friday afternoon, the St. Louis Cardinals announced their 25-man active roster for the National League Championship Series. The Cardinals made one change from their NLDS roster, subtracting a pitcher and adding a position player. Lefthanded-batting catcher A.J. Pierzynski will replace lefthanded reliever Sam Freeman on the NLCS roster, giving the Cardinals 14 position players and 11 pitchers this series.
In my Twitter feed, the first tweet of the news I saw was from STL Baseball Weekly's Brian Stull:
When last we saw Freeman, he issued two walks to the Dodgers in NLDS Game 1. Matheny didn't call on Freeman again after that. Instead the manager went with rookie lefthander Marco Gonzales, who pitched solidly enough for Matheny to remark that the rookie was the Cardinals' best lefthander in the pen. Matheny's use of Gonzales backed up his praise. Gonzales appeared in games two and four of the series while Freeman and veteran Randy Choate did not toss an inning after the NLDS's opening contest.
When last we saw Pierzynski, he was doing this:
Lucious gif by VEBer Dan (@bjork24)
With no defensive versatility to speak of, Pierzynski—with his career .286/.328/.434 (.328 wOBA, 97 wRC+) vs. righties—will presumably fill the role of lefthanded bench bat for Matheny. The question is whether he supplants both Oscar Taveras and Daniel Descalso as the first lefthanded pinch-hitting option, Descalso as the second lefthanded pinch-hitting option, or neither and just fills in as the club's third lefthanded pinch-hitting option.
This is a good move by Matheny. If the manager doesn't have enough faith to use Freeman, then the southpaw shouldn't be on the active roster. It's a far better use of precious roster space to have on the NLCS 25-man a player Matheny might call upon to pinch-hit (perhaps in place of Daniel Descalso—fingers crossed!). Per a tweet from KMOX's Chris Hrabe, that choice will be a mental Matheny tug-of-war between Pierzynski's veteran proveyness and Descalso's accomplished résumé.
The move will also make Pierzynski's children pleased.
"My kids kept saying, 'Dad, why don't you ever get to play?' so it will be nice not to have to answer that anymore." - AJ Pierzynski— Chris Hrabe (@chrabe) October 10, 2014
The decision to reduce the number of relievers available in the bullpen by one would seem to indicate a willingness on Matheny's part to use Wacha at some point during the NLCS. Then again, perhaps Wacha will remain in the Miller glass box, waiting for an emergency that never comes. Time will tell.