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Cardinals notebook: Edman leaves leadoff to find swing; flock of rehabbers near return

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Orioles 5, Cardinals 3

Cardinals infielder Tommy Edman strikes out on Tuesday, May 10, 2022, in the fourth inning of a game against the Orioles at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. 

In today’s 10 a.m. video, columnist Ben Hochman dissects the Cardinals’ offense and awful starting pitching. Also, a happy birthday shoutout to Omar Oliveras! And, as always, Hochman picks a random St. Louis Cards card from the hat. Ten Hochman is presented by Window Nation!

ATLANTA — Two at-bats into Tuesday’s game and Cardinals switch-hitter Tommy Edman had seen a total of 12 pitches and lined out sharply to infielders on the right side.

The sting and elevation of the contact were closer to what he seeks.

Even though he was further away from where that search began.

For the first time since he took over the leadoff spot on April 23, Edman batted lower in the lineup Tuesday, downshifting to seventh in the order. Rookie Brendan Donovan, one of the team leaders in on-base percentage, took over atop the order so that Edman could reconnect with elements of his swing that made him so successful coming out of spring.

“We have a pretty good idea when Edman’s body is moving the right away to give him the (hit) spray that we need and overall line drives,” manager Oliver Marmol said. “And right now, we’re seeing a lot more pull-side groundballs. He knows what he needs to do in order to get back to where he needs to be. But until that happens, we’ll switch the lineup up and get some matchups.”

Edman went 0 for 5 with two strikeouts and three groundouts Monday, and he went 10 consecutive at-bats without getting the ball out of the infield. Edman has steadily scattered hits through the past several weeks, but in the past 16 games he has hit .185 with more strikeouts (18) than times on base (16).

This spring, the switch-hitter worked on adjusting his swing so that he could turn on how pitchers approached him and begin to elevate, with authority, pitches that he chopped into grounders last season. The first-half results were strong. When paired with his steady play as the Cardinals’ new everyday shortstop, Edman spent some time leading the majors in wins above replacement. The concern for the team has been whether the demand of his new position would lead to fatigue, and Marmol acknowledged Tuesday how days off have been few for Edman and that could always drag on the bat, too.

A recent day off ended when the team needed a defensive replacement for the final third of the game.

Edman “feels really good body-wise,” Marmol said.

The infielder has echoed that in recent days.

“That’s the best part of about this whole honesty thing,” the manager said. “If you’re honest all the time, then it’s easier to have those conversations: ‘Hey, man, you’re not hitting. Until you do, let’s put you down here and then get your body right and then get you back up.’”

More rehabs begin; Matz moves closer

Three major-league teammates will join outfielder Tyler O’Neill at Class AAA Memphis in the next two days as rehab assignments annex the minor-league roster, and a fourth rehabbing Cardinal is set to start for High-A Peoria on Wednesday.

Lefty T.J. McFarland, cleared for game action after spending two weeks on the COVID-related injury list, will pitch an inning for the Triple-A Redbirds in Durham, North Carolina, on Wednesday. Corey Dickerson (calf muscle) is scheduled to play five innings in the outfield and get at least two at-bats for Memphis. Tyler O’Neill (hamstring), who went 2 for 3 Monday for the Redbirds, is scheduled to play nine innings in the field Wednesday.

Drew VerHagen (hip impingement) will start Wednesday for High-A Peoria and is scheduled to throw an inning. The Cardinals’ goal is to have the right-hander build his pitch count to 40 so he can offer long relief when he returns to the majors.

Steven Matz (shoulder) is scheduled to start and throw four innings (around 60 pitches) for Class AAA Memphis on Thursday. The Cardinals are discussing Matz’s next move based on the pressing need for pitching in the majors. Matz threw a bullpen for coaches Tuesday at Truist Park to gauge his progress and readiness if his return is moved up.

The Cardinals have announced Matthew Liberatore as Thursday’s starter, though an official with the team said that is subject to change based on how the series in Atlanta progresses.

Harrison Bader (right foot) took swings and threw at Busch Stadium on Monday and felt improved. The Cardinals will evaluate his next steps this weekend. Johan Oviedo (bruised hand) had reduced pain and was able to play catch Tuesday, a day after being struck by a 111 mph line drive near the pinky of his pitching hand.

Cabrera aces BP test

Genesis Cabrera sped straight from a planned bullpen session to facing hitters Tuesday afternoon at Truist Park, and he could be back in the Cardinals’ bullpen by Thursday. Cabrera faced teammates and struck out most of them to determine his readiness after more than a week on the COVID-related IL. He could be activated as soon as Thursday and by Friday at the latest.

That decision will be made Wednesday after he recovers from his workout.

Cabrera had access to a gym and was able to maintain his arm strength by throwing with the use of a sock-like glove that allows pitchers to unleash throws when working out in confined spots.

The lefty declined to disclose specifically what put him on the IL, saying only that he dealt with fatigue and if he had to spend time away from the team he wanted to be at home “comfortable.”

Capel’s homer, MiLB honors

The Cardinals were able to retrieve the ball from Conner Capel’s first career homer but he had not yet seen it Tuesday because it had to be dried out. Capel’s solo homer to center late Monday landed in the ponds beyond the center-field wall and bobbed there until it was fished out. ... Infielder Malcom Nunez won the Cardinals’ minor-league player of the month award for June with a .381 average and a 1.180 OP during the month. Those numbers led the entire organization, as did Nunez’s nine home runs, 27 RBIs and 61 total bases for Class Springfield. First baseman Nunez, 21, won the Dominican Summer League’s Triple Crown as a teen and has long been considered a prospect at the plate once he grows into consistent power. ... One of the most intriguing prospects in the organization, right-hander Inohan Paniagua led all starters in the system with four wins, a 2.18 ERA and 38 strikeouts in June to win the pitcher of the month award. Paniagua, 22, is 6-4 with a 2.15 ERA in 15 starts this season, all at Low-A Palm Beach.

In today’s 10 a.m. video, columnist Ben Hochman dissects the Cardinals’ starting pitching, notably Dakota Hudson and Andre Pallante. And, as always, Hochman picks a random St. Louis Cards card from the hat. Ten Hochman is presented by Window Nation!

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