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Cardinals notebook: Marmol says Woodford's demotion not performance related

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Jake Woodford was sent out on Monday for the second time this month by the Cardinals, and manager Oliver Marmol said it wasn’t a performance-related move.

As expected, left-hander Packy Naughton was called up from Class AAA Memphis to make Monday’s start for the Cardinals against San Diego. As expected, right-hander Woodford, who finished last season in the Cardinals’ rotation, was dispatched to Memphis to make room for Naughton, armed with the organization’s stipulation that he make his slider a big-league pitch.

Marmol said he didn’t have a problem with Woodford’s four-seam fastball or two-seam fastball but he didn’t think Woodford’s slider was as good as it was in 2021 when he made five starts for the Cardinals down the stretch.

“(The slider) needs to improve,” Marmol said.

Woodford declined comment after he was told he was being sent back and Marmol said Woodford had a right to be disappointed and made a point of saying that Woodford had pitched better than some of the pitchers who still are here.

“He absolutely should be disappointed,” Marmol said. “He’s performed well. Every time we’ve given him a shot, he’s done what we called him to do. It was a tough decision.

“I don’t think anybody gets a taste of the big leagues and enjoys going back down.”

Woodford, who had pitched three innings of relief on Saturday and probably wasn’t available to pitch Monday in a bullpen game, still would seem a candidate to be called up as a 27th man to work in a day-night doubleheader on Saturday in Chicago. But it seems more likely that he will start for Memphis later this week and remain there for a while.

“Has he gotten outs?” Marmol asked. “Yes. Do we think him going down and improving his slider is going to make (getting outs) sustainable, the answer is yes. Do we think over time that if he keeps pitching the way he’s been pitching, it’s sustainable? No.

“Getting him down there as a starter, getting him some touches and letting him rip some sliders and actually get the horizontal break he had toward the end of last year is what we want. The decision was more in developing ‘Woody’ than performance.”

Woodford is 0-1 with a good 2.25 earned-run average in eight relief appearances.

“I think we used ‘Woody’ the way we should,” Marmol said. “Could you argue him starting over Naughton today? Yes, if I’m being extremely blunt.

“When you look at his stuff from what it looked like last year compared to what it looks like right now, there’s a difference in his secondary stuff. Can you use him right now? Yes. But I think we’ll get to a point where we’ll see, ‘This isn’t working,’” so why not get ahead of that?‘”

In 2021, Marmol said Woodford was throwing his slider harder “and the horizontal break was way more significant.

“But when you talk about performance, he’s out-performed several guys who are still on that team. It’s clear and they know it.”

Padres upset with callSan Diego’s Manny Machado was called for batter interference in the seventh inning Monday of the Cardinals’ 6-3 victory when his backswing on strike three hit Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina in the left elbow. Molina hadn’t been able to hold onto what would have been strike three. Except . . .

Machado thought he had tipped the ball but the umpires, after huddling, ruled that Machado had not tipped the ball, he was out on the strikeout/interference and ordered base runner Jose Azocar, who had been on the move, back to first base.

Molina said he didn’t think Machado tipped the ball but Machado said, “Yeah, I did foul tip it.

“So I don’t know what’s going on there — why it’s interference.

“I didn’t hit Yadi. So, they went back, checked and then they said there was no foul tip. But it was interference, hitter’s interference. So at that point, we can’t really do anything.”

Perplexed San Diego manager Bob Melvin said that home-place umpire Lance Barksdale had said, “he fouled it off, but then came all the way around and knocked it out of his glove, which did not happen. The timing is literally impossible on that. He missed on a couple different levels on that call.”

Marmol said the Cardinals were sure that Machado had not tipped the pitch.

“And then on the backswing, the batter’s out and the runner comes back. Interference,” Marmol said.

“Initially, they had it as a foul tip. But Lance got it right.”

Technical difficultiesMolina had said before the game that PitchCom, a new thing for him in which the catcher can communicate electronically with the pitcher, after all these years for him was “easy” and that he liked it. But, on Monday, the transmissions went out for both teams.

“I don’t know if it was heat-induced, or what?” Marmol said. “(But) the new ones worked.”

That wasn’t the only technical problem. Umpiring crew chief Ted Barrett, talking between innings to second-base umpire Nestor Ceja, had his microphone on and his comments were heard in the press box.

Barrett was heard to say, “We don’t call a ton of balks. What they let these guys get away with is amazing.”

Bader is backCenter fielder Harrison Bader was back in the lineup after missing Sunday’s game when he was ill. Marmol, not a doctor, said “congestion” was the best working description for what ailed Bader.

“He looks alive today,” Marmol said before the game.

The National League’s leading base stealer said he had been dealing with “whatever’s been going around,” but had felt better although he suffered a cut on his right foot later in the day.

He was in center field and went one for four.

Injury updatesBefore the game, injured outfielders Tyler O’Neill and Dylan Carlson were performing running drills. There is nothing wrong with O’Neill’s legs and he is due to go out on a rehab option in a couple of days as he recovers from a right shoulder impingement.

As for Carlson, the switch hitter has begun his rehab from a hamstring strain.

“He’ll continue that running progression and we’ll go from there,” Marmol said.

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