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Cardinals notes: When Juan Yepez, comes off injured list, who goes from the bench?

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Cardinals aim for series win against the Dodgers

St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Juan Yepez catches a fly ball from Los Angeles Dodgers Trayce Thompson and throws out Freddie Freeman at home in the eighth inning on Thursday, July 14, 2022 at Busch Stadium. 

Juan Yepez, on a minor league rehabilitation option as he recovers from a forearm strain, will spend the weekend in Memphis with the most attention being paid to his throwing arm. Yepez will play outfield at least once and possibly more this weekend.

“We need him (to be able) to throw the baseball,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said Friday.

Eventually, probably in the next week, Yepez, who has 11 homers for the Cardinals, could be activated and then what happens?

Earlier, the answer as to who would be stricken from the active roster would be Lars Nootbaar, who has made that drive down I-55 before to Memphis. But Nootbaar is a regular player, for the moment.

That would leave left-handed-hitting Corey Dickerson and Brendan Donovan because Nolan Gorman, Albert Pujols and Andrew Knizner would seem to be the safest among those who don’t start every day.

But Dickerson has been hot lately, batting .370 since the All-Star break. And Donovan’s versatility and ability to hit both handed pitching (.286), as well as right-handers (.279) would seem to put him in good stead.

The fly in the ointment here is that switch-hitters Dylan Carlson and Tommy Edman, both whom were in Friday’s lineup as right-handed hitters, have been non-productive, for the most part, against right-handers. Carlson, who led off on Friday against Milwaukee, was hitting .214 against right-handers and Edman was at .251.

When a tough right-hander like Milwaukee’s reigning Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes is pitching — and he will be on Saturday night — Marmol is pondering using both Dickerson and Donovan as outfielders because right-handed-hitting Tyler O’Neill was only batting only .205 against right-handers before Friday. A rub would be that Adam Wainwright is pitching and the Cardinals generally put their best defense behind him.

Dickerson seems almost certain to get a nod Saturday because he is four for eight against Burnes. As for the rest involved in the outfield conversation, Carlson is two for 12 with a homer against Burnes, Donovan nothing for six, Nootbaar nothing for four and O’Neill one for 11 with seven strikeouts.

According to early reports from Memphis, Yepez has been pulling off the ball in his swing, much like the habit he got into at the big-league level before he righted himself.

“Part of it is him getting back to be able to use the whole field and drive the ball the other way,” said Marmol. But the manager also noted that the right-handed-hitting Yepez’s OPS against right-handed pitching is close to .800, which is higher than the aforementioned left-handed hitters.

“It will be a good decision to have,” decided Marmol, whose team was hitting just .250 with an OPS of .729 against righthanders.

Brewers, Cardinals almost dead even

Milwaukee and the Cardinals had split 12 games before Friday, with each team winning two games in all three of the four-game series. This three-game series will be the first that will be won by one team or the other.

Through the first 12 meetings, the Cardinals outscored the Brewers 48-44, so it not should be a surprise that the Cardinals and the Brewers had the same loss total (50) before Friday, with the Cardinals having one more victory.

Marmol often has said he enjoys managing against former Manager of the Year winner Craig Counsell of the Brewers as much as anybody because the games often turn into which teams can gain the advantage in the bench and bullpen matchups and neither manager is hesitant to employ almost his whole roster.

“We know each other well,” said Marmol.

Flaherty next will pitch Tuesday

After throwing 35 pitches, using all his assortment on Thursday at Memphis, right-hander Jack Flaherty next is targeted to pitch on Tuesday, probably at Class AA Springfield, as Flaherty’s rehab for a shoulder strain continues.

Although Flaherty gave up a three-run homer and four runs overall in one inning, a catcher’s interference call and a grounder that wasn’t caught, contributed to a longer inning, Marmol felt good about it because Flaherty felt good.

“Did the (pitching) line look great? No,” said Marmol. “But the whole point of it was health.

“All the underlying stuff as far as shape, velo(city), release and everything that goes along with it ... was up to par with the baseline that we’re trying to match,” said Marmol.

Flaherty, who went through the rehab process earlier in the season but made only three appearances, totaling just eight innings at the big-league level, isn’t eligible to come off the 60-day injured list until Aug. 26.

Left-hander Steven Matz, who was feared lost for the season with a torn left knee ligament, has been throwing — not pitching — and there is a chance he could pitch before the season ends, Marmol said.

“I don’t want to rule it out,” Marmol said, “because we continue to get good updates on it.” The next update on Matz, Marmol said, would be on Monday.

Left-handed bullpen could change

Although left-handed rookie Zack Thompson isn’t eligible to come back until next week from his regular option to the minors, he could return as a late-inning left-hander. Marmol said the organization wants to see if Thompson, mostly a starter in his career, can pitch for Memphis on back-to-back days and be successful.

“It’s taxing. He’s never done it,” said Marmol. “We want to go through a little bit of a run-through before we get him back up here.”

But there is a need because Genesis Cabrera, the lead left-hander in the bullpen, has struggled more often than not lately. Marmol said Cabrera was healthy.

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