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Transaction Catch-Up 5/15/22: Wainwright Back, Whitley Optioned, Cards Welcome Walsh

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Kansas City Royals Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Cards announced the following transactions in the last several days:

5/11/22: Optioned RHP Kodi Whitley to AAA Memphis. Recalled RHP Jake Walsh from AAA Memphis.

5/12/22: Optioned IF Kramer Robertson to AAA Memphis. Activated IF Edmundo Sosa from the COVID-19 Related IL. 40-man roster at 39.

5/14/22: Optioned LHP Packy Naughton to AAA Memphis. Activated RHP Drew VerHagen from the 10-day IL.

5/15/22: Optioned RHP Jake Woodford to AAA Memphis. Activated RHP Adam Wainwright from the COVID-19 Related IL. 40-man roster full.

Through the games of May 10th, Kodi Whitley’s 13.6% walk rate was the worst on the staff by a considerable margin. This was propelled, in large part, by his May 7th outing against the San Francisco Giants. Entering the game in the bottom of the 8th inning with the Cards down 10-7, he walked each of the four batters he faced. Whitley’s ERA was inflated in that game because T.J. McFarland allowed all three of the runners he inherited from Whitley to score. Three days later, in Whitley’s last appearance, he walked one man, hit another and allowed a single and a double in relief of opener Packy Naughton. In Whitley’s case, it wasn’t so much that he has been hit hard, but that he had trouble finding the plate in his last two outings. His changeup hasn’t been as good a pitch this season as it has in the past.

To replace Whitley, the Cards called up Jake Walsh, who had been added to the 40-man roster this past November. After Jacob Bosiokovich went on the AAA Memphis IL, Walsh became the club’s closer, finishing 8 of the 9 games he pitched. In 11 innings, he faced 43 batters and struck out 16, while only walking 5. Having served as a starter in 2018, Walsh missed the entire 2019 season (except for two rehab appearances with the Rookie Gulf Coast club) due to an elbow injury that resulted in Tommy John surgery. The COVID-19 pandemic cancelled any late-season appearances that Walsh would have been capable of making in 2020. Walsh also missed time in 2021.

It turned out to be only a two-night stand in St. Louis for Robertson. He pinch-ran for Juan Yepez with two out in the bottom of the 9th on May 10th. The next day, with the Cards ahead 9-1 in the bottom of the 8th against the Orioles, Robertson pinch hit for Paul Goldschmidt and grounded out to the right side to score a man from 3rd base. He stayed in the game at shortstop for the top of the 9th and threw wide of Yadier Molina at first base for a throwing error in his only chance in the field. Edmundo Sosa was activated from the COVID-19 Related IL was activated from the COVID-19 Related IL just two days after Paul DeJong was optioned, which makes one wonder why the club couldn’t have just waited two days to make the DeJong move. Sosa made two rehab appearances with the AA Springfield club, poking three singles in nine trips to the plate, getting hit one time. Since DeJong’s option, manager Oli Marmol essentially admitted to the media that he has ridden the hot hand at shortstop with Brendan Donovan and his bat. Marmol insists that Sosa—who struck out in 42.9% of his 28 plate appearances before testing positive for COVID with no walks—has a real shot at the shortstop job. Sosa was in the lineup yesterday when Donovan played third and Arenado served as the designated hitter, and is in the lineup again tonight against a left-hander. Marmol denies that he is employing a platoon.

VerHagen was only able to pitch three games in the majors before going on the shelf with a hip impingement. He also came down with COVID-19, which delayed his return. The club has already DFAd one pitcher that’s out of options for underperforming others on the roster. VerHagen, however, is signed to a two-year deal, and despite his four walks in just 4.2 IP, the club is going to give him more than three games before cutting bait. He made a rehab start once each for AA Springfield and AAA Memphis, facing 13 batters with five strikeouts, one walk and one hit allowed over 3.2 IP. Naughton was the roster casualty in that transaction. He actually pitched fine in relief as the last man and third lefty in the relief crew. It took him until his fifth appearance to walk somebody, he averaged about one strikeout per inning, and he only allowed two barrels out of 24 batted ball events. His worst performance was the day that he was used as an opener and gave up six hard hit balls, two of which left the park.

Adam Wainwright went on the COVID-19 Related IL on May 6th, and although he never exhibited any symptoms was not able to clear the COVID protocols for over a week. The club waited to activated him until today, and he will start tonight’s game, which is being aired on ESPN. To make room for Wainwright on the active roster, the Cards optioned Jake Woodford. The club’s usage of him has been curious, to say the least. Steven Matz got knocked out of his first start of the season on April 9th after only three innings pitched. Woodford pitched three innings of relief in that game. Marmol then gave him 13 days of rest and brought him in to pitch the last inning of a 4-1 loss to the Reds on April 24th. One two other occasions since that time, Woodford has been brought in to pitch in essentially the identical scenario—the last inning in Cardinal losses. He’s been used a total of three times in what one could call middle to long relief, each time two innings or more in relief of Matz. The most recent occasion was on May 7th, in which he pitched 3.1 innings after Matz got bombed for 8 runs.

I’m not sure what the plan is for Woodford going forward. He was always a starter in the minors and he fared reasonably well in that role last season with the big club. It’s possible that Woodford could slide into the AAA Memphis rotation. Johan Oviedo is getting destroyed by homers. T.J. Zeuch, the club’s opening day starter, hasn’t pitched since April 28th, even though he’s not on the injured list, and I’m not sure what’s going on with him.

One could argue that Woodford deserved the promotion on the grounds that he had the worst walk rate among the relief core among players with minor league options. The issue now is that the Cards only have 8 relievers, and no one who has really been used as a long man recently. Andre Pallante pitched multiple innings early on, but he has been used in shorter, higher-leverage outings recently. Maybe the club thinks that a true long man is not necessary. And perhaps Drew VerHagen, who was billed in early spring training as the club’s likely 5th starter, will be tasked with the role now that he is supposedly healthy.

The Cards are the only club in the NL Central that is rostering only 13 pitchers. Clubs are allowed to have 14 pitchers through the games on May 29th. I don’t expect that the Cards will join the other NL Central clubs any time soon. With Juan Yepez playing every day somewhere, Corey Dickerson signed to a $5 million deal, Albert Pujols locked in to the DH job against lefties, and the club trying to sort out the shortstop job between Brendan Donovan and Edmundo Sosa, they probably won’t be able to get away with a three-man bench.

The other thing to keep in mind is that on May 2nd, the 15-day option rule and 15-day IL rule for pitchers went into effect. Barring an injury, this is the bullpen you’re likely to see for a good while, barring an injury, unless the club wants to option either Pallante or Walsh and bring up either Junior Fernandez or Angel Rondon.

BULLPEN

Cabrera (L), Gallegos (R), Helsley (R), McFarland (L), Pallante (R), VerHagen (R), Walsh (R), Wittgren (R)