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TA 9/6: Miller back from IL, Dickson Outrighted: Is This the Pitching Staff for the Rest of the Year?

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MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals announced the following transactions in recent days:

9/6/21: Designated RHP Brandon Dickson for assignment. Activated LHP Andrew Miller from the 10-day IL. 40-man roster at 39.

9/8/21: Outrighted RHP Brandon Dickson to AAA Memphis.

Well, that was fun. Dickson set the Cardinal record for the longest time between appearances for the club—August 28th, 2012 to September 1st, 2021. The Cards added him from Memphis on September 1st when rosters expanded to 28 without him really deserving it, because they didn’t have any other good options. He pitched an inning each on September 1st and September 3rd, and allowed 5 hits out of 10 batters faced, including a homer and 2 doubles. He walked none and struck one batter out. Dickson should have had one minor league option left, but perhaps the Cards cleared the 40-man roster spot early in the hopes that someone like Dakota Hudson could come back.

Andrew Miller only missed the minimum time, but it isn’t really the same having him back because he can’t pitch with his brother from another mother Justin, who is likely out for the year. It doesn’t seem like it, but Miller’s peripherals are better in every way this year than they were in the 2019 season, except for his strikeout rate. The .363 BABIP allowed that he’s currently running is the highest he’s allowed in any full season in his career. That 7% drop in strikeout rate is a big deal, though, and he’s lost a couple of ticks in velocity on each of his pitches. The Cards are thankful there’s not another vesting option for 2022, but for now Shildt will continue trot him out there and hope his slider, which he throws over 65% of the time, will fool someone in a low-leverage situation.

The question remains whether the list I’ve provided below—which reflects that Woodford is now in the rotation in Kim’s place—is the bullpen that you’re going to see the rest of the season. Junior Fernandez, Jordan Hicks, Ryan Helsley, and Carlos Martinez are definitely out for the year. Jack Flaherty, Justin Miller and Wade LeBlanc are long shots. In a surprising turn of events, at least to me, Dakota Hudson might be eyeing a very late return this month. I would not have expected him to be back this year, because he had Tommy John surgery on September 28th, 2020 and 12 months or less is a very aggressive timetable in which to return from that procedure. But he has made three minor league rehab starts, most recently last night for AA Springfield, where he threw 46 pitches over 4 innings. If he can recover successfully from 2 more rehab starts, the Cards are seriously considering putting him in the bullpen. A 40-man roster spot is available for Hudson with the outright of Dickson, and my guess is that Whitley would be the one that would be sent to Memphis if Hudson comes back.

BULLPEN

Cabrera (L), Garcia, Gallegos, Kim (L), McFarland (L), A. Miller (L), Ponce de Leon, Reyes, Whitley