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Chasing the dream together, longtime friends Gorman, Liberatore reach it at same time with Cardinals

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Cardinals Pirates Baseball

St. Louis Cardinals' Nolan Gorman celebrates after singling off Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Zach Thompson for his first major league hit during the second inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh, Friday, May 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

PITTSBURGH — Rookie Nolan Gorman was the Cardinals’ second baseman Friday night in his big-league debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates. And Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said it would stay that way, at least in the fact that the hot-hitting infielder wasn’t brought up to be a designated hitter.

He will be wearing a fielder’s glove on most days.

“Whenever we brought him up, he was going to play second,” said Marmol. “He’s going to play second and Eddie (Tommy Edman) is going to play short.”

Gorman, who had 15 homers, a .308 average, and a 1.044 OPS at Memphis, might DH on occasion, just like any other regular. With left fielder Tyler O’Neill on the 10-day injured list with a right shoulder impingement, Marmol said he didn’t envision Gorman seeing any time in the outfield either.

The 22-year-old Gorman was called up along with left-handed pitcher Matthew Liberatore, another Arizona prep standout who was a teammate of Gorman’s on a travel team coached by both of their fathers. Liberatore will make the Saturday start for the Cardinals, with both sets of parents on hand.

That the two longtime friends would be called up to the majors on the same day was one for the books.

“It’s pretty unreal,” said Gorman. “It’s super cool. We always pushed each other when we were younger.”

Liberatore, the top pick of Tampa Bay in 2018, said, “If you gave me a script 10 years ago and said, ‘This is what your life is going to look like 10 years from now,’ I would have said that you’re crazy. This is really the first thing that is actually the most unbelievable thing that’s happened to us so far.”

Liberatore, 3-3 with a 3.83 ERA, said he actually been told a couple of days before the news broke that he was coming up but he was sworn to secrecy other than telling his father. It was “pretty exhausting,” said Liberatore. “I had to make up lies and stories to tell the whole team.”

With Edman advertised as the shortstop “(he has zero reservations, at all,” said Marmol) and Gorman as the second baseman, this raises questions about what happens to former regular shortstop Paul DeJong, if and when he returns from his exile to Memphis. Marmol said the organizational instructors he spoke with, including infield guru Jose Oquendo, tag Gorman, signed as a third baseman as the club’s No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft, as someone who will be an “average” second baseman.

“But here’s the thing with Gorman,” said Marmol. “He’s never satisfied. I like this kid.”

Asked what he thought of his second basing, Gorman laughed and said, “I think it’s pretty good.” To accentuate that, Gorman took the first ball hit to him in the first inning Friday and, with Edman’s help, turned it into a double play.

In the second, Gorman singled to right center off a 1-2 Zach Thompson changeup for his first major league hit.

Gorman said he got the word during batting practice on Thursday from Memphis hitting coach Brandon Allen, who was taking over for manager Ben Johnson, who was away from the club for some graduation exercises in his family. Allen asked about the batting practice machine Memphis was using before a game at Gwinnett and Gorman responded that it was “all right.” Allen then told Gorman to pack his things up and talk to the trainer.

“I just kind of froze,” said Gorman. In the minors, trainers serve as traveling secretaries, too, and the word was that Gorman was going to the majors. In the realm of Twitter, however, his parents already knew before he had a chance to call them in the Phoenix area.

Gorman had a chance to get here sooner but he went two for 16 both singles, in spring training and sustained a sore back. But he said he recaptured his timing at Memphis and, after a slow start there, he kicked into gear, although striking out 50 times in 133 at-bats.

The biggest difference Gorman could discern before the game was the size of the hotels he will be staying in now. In the minors, it was the Fairfield Inn. In Pittsburgh, it was the Fairmont.

Knizner cleared to play

Catcher Andrew Knizner, who took two foul tip shots to his mask on Thursday, passed concussion protocols and was available to play although regular catcher Yadier Molina caught Adam Wainwright, as usual. Catcher Ivan Herrera had been called up from Memphis as a taxi squad member, along with right-handed reliever Angel Rondon.

Shortstop Edmundo Sosa, who jammed his left ankle on a slide on Wednesday, still is on the mend although improving. But, like DeJong, he appears to be on the outside looking in again as a starting infielder.

O’Neill has returned to St. Louis to continue getting treatment on his shoulder with the probability he then will go on a minor-league rehabilitation option to try to recover his batting stroke.

Extra bases

Packy Elkins, the Cardinals’ run production coach, was coaching first base on Friday as Stubby Clapp was attending his son’s graduation ceremony in Tennessee. Clapp will be back Saturday. Third-base coach Ron “Pop” Warner returned from the St. Louis area where he had attended a graduation. Oquendo had filled in for him.

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