KANSAS CITY — Randy Arozarena, the newest Cardinal, said he thought it was a “dream” when Memphis manager Ben Johnson, not really fluent in Spanish, called him Monday morning in his room while he was sleeping in Fresno, Calif., where the Redbirds were playing.
As Cardinals translator Carlos Villoria related the story from the Cuban outfielder Tuesday, Johnson said, “Hey, Randy, you’re going to the bigs.’”
Arozarena, 24, rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and put down the phone, only to pick it up again.
“Was this a dream?” he said he asked himself.
He called Johnson back and asked, “Did you call me saying that I’m going to the big leagues?”
Johnson, according to Arozarena, said, “It’s not a dream. It’s reality. You’re going.”
Arozarena admitted that on a scale of 1 to 10, Johnson’s ability to speak Spanish “was about a 2. But he can get a point across.”
With the jersey No. 66 hanging in his locker, Arozarena, who was hitting .368 at Memphis when called up, was asked what he thought about Cleveland’s Yasiel Puig, who has made 66 rather famous.
“Loco,” said a smiling Arozarena, a description needing no translation. But, through Villoria, Arozarena said, “He’s crazy. But he’s a good player.”
Arozarena says he is that type of player.
“I have similar characteristics,” he said. “Every time I play hard. I have the same arm. And yes, I love that number. I played with that number in Mexico, too.”
Arozarena was hitting .346 in spring training with the Cardinals before being sent out on the day he suffered a broken right hand when he was hit by a pitch. His minor-league season, which actually started at Springfield, would begin late.
But he said, “That injury helped me to prepare myself — to gain strength in other parts of the body. So I think that injury actually helped me to get here.”
Arozarena hit only .232 at Memphis last year, although he had hit .396 in Class AA in 91 at-bats.
“Last year was my first experience in Triple A,” he said. “I didn’t really know what to expect. The biggest difference from Double-A to Triple-A is that you’ve got veteran pitchers who know how to locate pitches. In Double A, you’ve got more talented players who just want to throw the ball hard. So I had to learn how to make the adjustments to hit those veteran players.”
When he found out he was coming to the majors, he said he called his mother in Cuba and “she started crying.” His family was not able to attend Tuesday night, but Arozarena said a close friend of his did come.
Cardinals fans had been waiting for this day, not quite as long as Arozarena, of course.
“I knew I was doing a good job, but I can’t control when they were calling me up,” he said. “I knew the day was coming, and luckily it’s here.”
He said the best part of his game was “being aggressive on the base paths and my quick swing. Probably in a couple of weeks I’ll know where the challenges are. But Triple A is a really good league, so it’s not like it’s a lot of difference.”
Manager Mike Shildt started Lane Thomas on Tuesday after Thomas had driven in five runs, including hitting a grand slam, on Sunday. Thomas had a hit and scored a run in the Cards’ 2-0 victory. Arozarena did not get into the game.
“We’ll get Randy in there sooner than later,” Shildt said. “I’m looking forward to seeing Randy play, too. You have two guys who can do multiple things. Clearly, Lane has played well here. He has acclimated here, not to say that Randy won’t.
“The opportunity will come for Randy to play. Both of them have multiple skill sets that can help you beat the other team. They can do it with their legs. They can do it with their arm. They can do it with the bat, obviously.”
MOLINA FEELS ‘NO PAIN’
Catcher Yadier Molina, making his first start since before the All-Star break Tuesday night, said he didn’t have any issues with his right thumb, in which he had a torn tendon, on his 20 at-bat (three hits) rehabilitation stint at Springfield and Memphis.
Before, when he came back after only 12 days following the initial injury in May, Molina had trouble with pain in his hand when he made contact with a pitch.
“Not right now,” he said. “Everything went well. That was my only worry — when I (would) swing and want to make contact that it would start bothering me. But, right now, pain free.”
Molina said he wasn’t sure about his timing until he got into a game here.
“You work on that every day you play,” said Molina, now hitting .257 after going 0 for four.
He had only three runs batted in for the last three weeks he played in the first half. Did he come off the injured list too soon the first time?
“Probably,” he said. “I guess so. That’s what history says. (But) I was trying to come back.”
WACHA TO START THURSDAY
Michael Wacha will make his first start in more than two weeks Thursday in Cincinnati. Shildt said Wacha will be followed, in order, by Adam Wainwright, Miles Mikolas and Jack Flaherty, who shined Tuesday night. Wacha has had a win in each of his past seven appearances at Great American Ball Park.
• When Paul Goldschmidt stole second on the front end of a double steal Sunday, he became the 17th Cardinal to steal a base this season. As recently as three years ago, he stole 32 bases for Arizona.