The Cards made the following transaction this afternoon:
5/3/21: Optioned OF Austin Dean to AAA Memphis. Activated RHP Adam Wainwright from the COVID-19 Related IL. 40-man roster full.
I covered the Wainwright situation here, and as best we can understand it, his quarantine was not required by major league baseball, but done out of an abundance of caution. He had already been fully vaccinated, but the Cards wanted to make triple sure that nothing happened as a result of his close contact with the relative of his that did test positive. Apparently a shorter quarantine period than that required for non-vaccinated players was enough to give all concerned the necessary satisfaction that everything was fine. The only ripple effect on the rotation was that Wainwright and Carlos Martinez switched the days for their starts, such that Martinez started yesterday on four days of rest, and Wainwright will be starting tonight on six days of rest.
For the corresponding roster move, the Cards decided to stick with the 9-man pen and option Austin Dean to go back to a 4-man bench. Early in the season, Dean wasn’t used much. The club gave John Nogowski most of the right-handed pinch hitting chances, and Dean was relegated to the occasional start against a left-handed pitcher. Dean’s pinch hitting chances increased after Nogowski and Tyler O’Neill went on the injured list and Matt Carpenter started a stretch of games. Our starters have gone deeper into games over the last couple of weeks, and Harrison Bader and Tyler O’Neill are both back in the lineup. Those factors have led to Carpenter and Justin Williams receiving most of the limited pinch hitting appearances in recent days. In total, Dean started three games in left field and four games in right field, with 12 appearances as a pinch hitter. Out of his 34 trips to the plate, he got 5 hits, 3 of which were for extra bases, including 2 doubles and a homer. He also walked 5 times for a 14.7% BB rate.
Why did the Cards keep the 9-man pen and go down to a 4-man bench? It does seem a little strange that other than the backup catcher Ali Sanchez—who probably won’t pinch hit unless it’s a blowout or emergency—Edmundo Sosa is the only pinch-hitting option from the right side now. Some might have expected Jordan Hicks, who is dealing with elbow inflammation, to be placed on the IL to accommodate Wainwright. Another option might have been Seth Elledge, who hasn’t pitched at all since his recall on April 29th. Or Jake Woodford, who also hasn’t pitched since is April 30th recall.
The answer can be explained by pointing to a couple of factors. One is that Elledge and Woodford are fresh arms, which the club will need, because the club still has seven more games to play without a day off, including tonight. Another is that John Mozeliak has told the media that Johan Oviedo will be recalled tomorrow to make the necessary start under the six-starter plan for this stretch. That will require an IL move, which will almost certainly be Hicks, although the club has not confirmed it yet. Woodford is the club’s only true long man at this point, and can serve as long relief protection for that start, or any other start over the next several days. And the presence of Elledge compensates for the eventual loss of Hicks. That is not ideal from the right-handed pinch hitting side, but at least the Mets only have one lefty reliever on the roster in Aaron Loup. He has been very good, and we can only hope that he doesn’t shut down Carpenter or Williams in critical situations in the late innings in the Mets series.
Sanchez, Carpenter, Sosa, Williams