The Cardinals’ longstanding interest in a young infielder from the Cuban baseball’s royal family has become a full-fledged pursuit.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (also spelled Gourriel) defected earlier this year and has been a free agent since August. He is set to turn 23 on Oct. 19, and at that point signing him won’t count against international spending limits — and that will not only increase interest in him but free up teams like the Cardinals to woo him without paying a dollar-for-dollar tax on the bonus he receives.
The Cardinals have had several of their senior scouts, including director of international operations Moises Rodriguez, see Gurriel recently, including his recent workout in Panama City.
Gurriel is the younger brother Houston’s Yulieski Gurriel, and some scouts consider the wiry, athletic youngster the better all-around player, if not hitter. He plays shortstop and second, and has a style of game that has been compared to Cardinals rookie Aledmys Diaz’s.
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The Cardinals will discuss scheduling a private workout for Gurriel as the market for him accelerates through the heart of baseball’s playoffs.
Reyes, Martinez held back
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny rarely advertises the relievers he has unavailable for a game before the game begins, but Sunday he volunteered that starters Carlos Martinez and Alex Reyes would not be used in Sunday’s vital game, no matter what. Martinez, who would have started a wild-card game for the Cardinals had they advanced, completed a season that saw him start 31 games for the first time in the majors and throw 195 1/3 innings. Reyes advanced from Class AAA to the majors and also pitched a new high for total innings, including 46 in the majors.
That workload meant hands-off Sunday, Matheny said.
“Neither of those guys are in the discussion,” the manager explained. “That’s because both of them have had a long year, both of them are feeling it from a long year, and you just can’t do it.”
• The Cardinals completed the season with their 19th sellout of their 81 home dates, and for the 13th consecutive season topped 3 million tickets sold. Although a billion-dollar TV deal is going to alter budgeting in the future, the Cardinals have hooked their payroll to ticket sales, and 2016’s 3,444,490 attendance surpassed the target of 3.4 million. It’s the fifth-highest in club history, but down from 2014 and 2015 totals.
• With two more Sunday, Cardinals tied the major-league record with 81 pinch hits, set twice previously. Their 17 homers is the major-league record.
• Seung Hwan Oh collected his 19th save of the season Saturday, the most by a South Korean-born rookie and tied for the second-most ever by a reliever from South Korea. Byung-Hyun Kim had 19 in 2001 and 36 in 2002.
• Adam Wainwright doubled in the fourth inning to give him 11 extra-base hits this season, the most by a pitcher since Micah Owings in 2007 and tying Bob Gibson’s club record set in 1972.