Sometime late Friday morning at Wrigley Field in Chicago, the Cardinals’ first-base coach will make a point of hugging the Cubs’ third baseman. The Cardinals’ manager may have the same inclination and the third-base coach, Ron “Pop” Warner, already knows what he’s going to do when he reaches his position for the start of Friday afternoon’s game.
“I’m going to go shake his hand,” said Warner.
The Cubs’ new third baseman has been a combination of Mike Schmidt and Jimmie Foxx rolled into one lately. Career minor leaguer Patrick Wisdom, who will be 30 on Aug. 27, has taken the baseball world and dropped it upside down in the past two weeks.
Wisdom, a former Cardinals supplemental first-round draft, a player in their minor league organization for seven seasons and a big leaguer, briefly, for them and manager Mike Shildt in 2018, tied a record by hitting eight home runs in his first 10 starts with the Cubs after being summoned from Iowa, where he was hitting all of .160 in 25 at-bats.
He will enter Friday afternoon’s game with the Cardinals hitting .364 with a crazy OPS of 1.371 — and with a smile on his face as he gets to hook up with old friends/new rivals in Warner, Shildt and first-base coach Stubby Clapp, the latter two who managed Wisdom for two years apiece in the Cardinals’ system, Shildt at Class AA Springfield and Class AAA Memphis and Clapp at Memphis.
“It will be exciting,” said Wisdom, in a telephone interview. “I like them as human beings and as coaches, so it will be good to see them, for sure.
“I played for Shildty for two years, Stubby for two years and ‘Pop’, being a rover at the time, I spent a lot of time with him, They definitely helped me a lot.
“They did a good job of keeping me confident and mentally engaged and not worrying about the decisions that are made.”
Wisdom had to watch Paul DeJong and Harrison Bader and Tyler O’Neill, among others, get promoted ahead of him from Memphis and he said Clapp became an important sounding board.
“He was able to kind of clear up my mental game and get me back on the right path,” said Wisdom.
‘The talent was there’
Clapp smiles when this is relayed to hm.
“The talent was there. The talent was always there,” said Clapp. “It was just a matter of helping him understand the mental side of failure and adversity and keep playing, no matter what happens, whether it was someone else getting called up or whether he went 0 for 4 with three punch-outs. Or whether he went four for four and not to get too high.
“Once he got all that mental stuff under control, he was going to be able to play.”
Mark DeJohn, longtime minor league field coordinator for the Cardinals, said, “They had big expectations that he would play third base in St. Louis for a long time. Patrick Wisdom...the older he’s got, he’s just learned more. He understands his capabilities.
“You know he’s the type of guy who can come off your bench and hit home runs. And he’s athletic enough that you can get him in the lineup.
“Patrick was always a streaky guy, but he’s just like a lot of guys in the game. He just needed a chance.
“Listen. He’d be a nice fit on (the Cardinals’) club right now.”
Clapp joked that he might try to throw Wisdom off his game somehow. “But I love him too much,” Clapp said. “I can’t do it. “He’s a great person on and off the field. We’ve just had a lot of good, candid talks about life and about how things work, how to handle stuff and how to look at the future and not necessarily dwell on the past.
“Sometimes when other people are getting called up in front of you, it’s not necessarily about you but it’s what needed at the time to fit that big-league roster. He deserved a shot and he eventually got it. I always thought he could do it.
“He worked hard. He came to the field with a smile every day. Now he’s reaping those rewards.”
‘I’m happy for him’
Shildt admitted he would like to be even happier for Wisdom, except for this Cubs factor.
“I spent a lot of time with ‘Wiz’ and I’ve got a lot of respect for Patrick,” said Shildt. “I’ve been a part of his journey and, hopefully, it’s been a somewhat positive part.
“Going back to Double-A (2014) and I had him in Triple-A (2016) and then he when he got here in 2018, he was a part of our club and did some productive things for us.
“I’m happy for him. I always pull for guys that I’ve had, especially guys as good as Patrick. This guy’s got tools. We’ve always noticed that.
“Yeah, bittersweet, right? You wish him the best but...clearly there’s competition involved.”
Clapp says he enjoys opening the paper and seeing that Wisdom has hit two more home runs in a game. Except for the Cubs winning, of course.
“Absolutely,” Clapp said. “That’s the reward for this. When you’re coaching guys, you don’t have a bubble gum card as a coach, you know what I mean? You have the reward of being able to see guys you’ve been able to work with and talk with on the field and off the field and be able to impact their life...to have success. That’s the goal of coaching.
“He deserves all the success he’s getting. He’s the salt of the earth. I don’t think you’ll find a coach in the system that didn’t like Patrick.
“He’s a great guy, a great player. He just needed to figure some things out.”
‘Can’t worry about it’
Asked if he could cite one reason for his stunning two-week run, Wisdom said, “If I had to pinpoint it, I’d say it was the culture of the team, the belief they have in me and that my teammates know that I can play. Having that comfortability to go out there and know I’m one of the guys definitely helps.”
Wisdom is up in the majors because of injuries to infielders David Bote, Nico Hoerner and Matt Duffy. Something will have to give soon.
“Out of my control,” Wisdom said. “Can’t worry about it. I don’t worry about it.
“If they’re back and the moves are made — and I’m the move, I’m the move. That’s what it is.”
Clapp smiled again.
“I’m glad he said that,” said Clapp. “He would have worried about that in the past. Now he’s controlling what he can control and that’s it.”
Since he left St. Louis after the 2018 season in a trade with Texas for utilityman Drew Robinson, who appealed more to the Cardinals because he was a lefthanded hitter, Wisdom played only briefly with the Rangers, then hit 31 homers for Nashville in 2019 before signing with Seattle.
But the Mariners kept him at the alternate site last season before letting him go and Wisdom signed late in the year with the Cubs, with whom he got only two at-bats. And then the Cubs let him go, only to re-sign the former St. Mary’s (California) product to a minor-league deal.
‘It’s been a blessing’
What kept him going?
“I love this game,” he said. “It’s a blessing to play this game. And to go out there every day and keep putting the jersey on is awesome. I’m trying to provide for my family as well — two little girls, 20 months and a new-born.
“I want to show them that if you have a dream, you just keep pursuing it. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. I think I’ve got quite a few years left.”
He said he never entertained quitting.
“I haven’t really come to that crossroad,” he said. “I never really thought those thoughts. I figured I would push whatever adversity I was faced with and come out strong on the other side.”
In 2018, Wisdom batted .333 (five for 15) as a pinch hitter and hit four home runs in 50 at-bats with the Cardinals.
“Deep down, I kind of anticipated staying a little longer,” Wisdom said. “When I was traded, I was kind of surprised but that’s baseball and anything can happen. I moved on.”
Just as he was surprised when, after shortly after taking a week off to be with wife Caroline in Seattle for the birth of their second daughter, he was brought up by the Cubs from Iowa.
“I hit a few homers but I had no real expectation of getting called up,” Wisdom said. “I just wasn’t focused on the big team.”
Just as he was surprised to be sent down to extended spring training in Jupiter, Florida, from Springfield in 2015 as the Cardinals’ organization wanted him to change his swing. His hands became bloody and raw but he made it to back to Springfield and now on Friday he gets to see some people of his past.
“That will be weird to be on this side of that rivalry,” Wisdom said.
The Wrigley Field fans quickly have adopted ‘Wiz.’
“The place gets rocking,” he said. “I’m glad they’re cheering for me and not booing me.”
Perhaps there will be no more moves this season although Wisdom knows not to get overconfident.
“It’s always nice to be solidified somewhere,” he said. “But you have to kind of take it by the seat of your pants and whatever happens, happens. You just stay in the moment and good things will happen.”
Even great things, like nearly averaging a home run a day.
“It’s definitely been a part of the dream,” Wisdom said. “I don’t want to say it’s over now. I want to keep going.”
Cards coach Warner said, “To tell you the truth, I’m not surprised. I’m glad to see him have success, not with the Cubs, necessarily.
“But what a great guy. I hope he does well — and they lose.”
DeJong activated, with team
The Cardinals activated shortstop Paul DeJong from the 10-day injured list Thursday after he had played four medical rehabilitation games at Class AAA Memphis where he had a double in 10 at-bats, and optioned first baseman John Nogowski to Memphis.
DeJong, who was placed on the IL on May 13 after suffering a non-displaced left rib fracture, is hitting .177 with just two hits in his most recent 20 at-bats but has seven homers and 18 runs batted in. He traveled with the team to Chicago on Thursday and probably will play Friday.
Nogowski was just one for 18 and had been hitless in his past 16 at-bats. All but one of his at-bats came as a pinch hitter.
The Cardinals also reportedly have made a minor league offer to former rotation member Shelby Miller, who had been pitching well for the Cubs’ Class AAA team before being released. The 30-year-old Miller, a former No. 1 draft pick who was 26-18 with the Cardinals from 2012-14, had a 1.74 earned run average for the Cubs’ Iowa team after allowing seven runs in two innings in a brief stint with the Cubs earlier this season.