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TA 4/28/21: Cards Option Hurst, Recall Oviedo as a Sixth Starter

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MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Cards just now announced the following transaction:

4/28/21: Optioned OF Scott Hurst to the ATS. Recalled RHP Johan Oviedo from the ATS.

Before April 23rd, the Cards already had four days off in the schedule. Friday the 23rd started a stretch of 17 straight games without a day off until May 10th. Up until today, there were only two occasions in which a Cardinal starter did not got five days of rest—Adam Wainwright’s April 8th start in the home opener against the Brewers, and Carlos Martinez’s April 21st start against the Nationals. The club had said during this 17-game stretch that it wanted to make sure that each starter had five days of rest. Today, the club fulfilled the promise. Kwang Hyun Kim returned to the rotation from the injured list on April 17th, but he would be pitching on four days of rest today unless the club added another starter. Adding another starter also makes sure that every other starter in the six-man rotation gets five days of rest through the games of May 9th. If it plays out according to the express wishes of the club, Oviedo will get two starts, then most likely get sent back down on May 11th, as there are three days off built into the schedule from May 10th through May 20th. Kim will then be able to start the May 11th game on five days of rest.

Carlos and Waino actually pitched fine in their starts on four days of rest, but the club is primarily worried about Kim, who has come back from a back injury, in addition to the concern that last season was shortened. For what it is worth, in The Book: Playing the Percentages, Tom Tango, Mitchel Lichtman and Andrew Dolphin wrote in 2007 that “to maximize an individual’s performance, it seems that five days of rest is the optimal point.” The authors suggested that the gain over four days of rest was four points of wOBA allowed. I’m not sure if the research has been updated, but Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch laid out the case that our starters have thrived with five days of rest.

Unwilling to DFA Daniel Ponce de Leon, the club had to make a roster trim and chose to option Scott Hurst. Hurst got only 5 trips to the plate without a hit, never started a game and played 10 innings in center field as a defensive replacement with one fielding chance. This move leaves the club with a four-man bench. They have to have Ali Sanchez as a backup catcher. Edmundo Sosa, who has been on the roster all year with only 8 trips to the plate, is out of options. Matt Carpenter isn’t going anywhere yet, and despite his struggles, he’s a better pinch hitting choice than Hurst, and Austin Dean is our only right-handed power source on the bench.

It would be fair to question why the club has Sosa on the roster if it doesn’t want to play him. Right now, at least, there aren’t any other choices on the 40-man roster. John Nogowski is still on the injured list, unable to be activated until May 3rd. Lane Thomas has been sent to the ATS for a reset, and Ivan Herrera is a catcher that’s a year away or more. Jose Rondon and Max Moroff are non-roster options, but it is unclear that Mike Shildt would have been more willing to use one of them as a pinch hitter than he has Sosa in the games to date. Even if one of either Rondon or Moroff were here instead, neither one of them have options, so they would be in the same position as Sosa, and there wouldn’t be any point to having any of them on the roster to jettison them this soon.

The issue today boiled down to the question of whether the club would rather have Austin Dean as the only backup outfielder, aside of course from Edman, or have Matt Carpenter as the only backup infielder. If the club decides to go with a five-man bench on May 11th, either Hurst or Nogowski can come back after being optioned, whereas Sosa might be claimed and lost and the club would be without their best defensive option to back Paul DeJong up at short. I’m not saying I completely agree with it, but that’s the theory. The question will present itself again soon, and will become even more interesting when Harrison Bader comes back from the injured list.

ROTATION SCHEDULE THROUGH MAY 10th

4/28: Oviedo

4/29: Kim

4/30: Gant

5/1: Flaherty

5/2: Wainwright

5/3: Martinez

5/4: Oviedo

5/5: Kim

5/6: Gant

5/7: Flaherty

5/8: Wainwright

5/9: Martinez

5/10: Open date

BENCH

Sanchez, Carpenter, Sosa, Dean

FUN FACT OF THE DAY

Andrew Miller and Tyler Webb are going into this game with 9 days of rest each. Daniel Ponce de Leon is going into today’s game with 8 days of rest. I suppose you can’t complain that they’ve used them recently in high leverage situations. Since April 18th, the last day that Miller and Webb pitched, we’ve had one blowout on April 19th, and Ponce pitched in that game. Since that day, we’ve had two 5-2 victories, and every other game has been decided by one run or two.