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2019 Cardinals spring training

Cardinals pitcher Genesis Cabrera throws from the practice mound during Cardinals spring training on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019, at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla. He is set to make his major-league debut Wednesday. (Photo by Christian Gooden, cgooden@post-dispatch.com)

PHILADELPHIA — When the question came about the 24 hours before he would make his major league debut, Cardinals lefty Genesis Cabrera smiled at the mention of him possibly being “nervous” and offered his only answer in English.

“A little bit,” he said.

He elaborated in Spanish.

“Obviously for me to be here for the first time in the major leagues – it’s always going to happen, always going to be a little bit nervous,” he said, through the team’s translator. “I’m going to control it.”

Cabrera, 22, joined the Cardinals in Philadelphia on Tuesday and will be added officially to the active roster Wednesday before making the start that evening. An official game will make him the 2,000th Cardinal since the club’s acknowledged start in 1892, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Cabrera moves into Michael Wacha’s spot in the rotation after the righthander moved to the bullpen – though Cabrera’s appearance could be a cameo as the Cardinals are also considering lefty Austin Gomber and rising righthander Alex Reyes for future starts. What earned Cabrera the call was his recent starts.

In back-to-back starts for Class AAA Memphis, Cabrera pitched six innings each and struck out 10 combined. More importantly, from the Cardinals’ perspective, he slashed his walk rate down to only two in those 12 innings.

He had walked 17 in his previous 27 2/3 innings.

“Probably getting back in the flow of pitching again,” said manager Mike Shildt, referencing the rust he and others in the organization thought they saw during spring training after Cabrera had spent the winter pitching in the Dominican Republic’s league. “His walk rate has improved dramatically. Steady improvement. We always like to see guys trending in the right direction.”

The Cardinals also saw how Cabrera maintained his above-average velocity deep into starts with 97-mph fastballs late, and they used information gathered by radar to compare Cabrera’s curveball to big-league curveballs for effectiveness. Cabrera’s curveball graded well, and the Cardinals feel the metrics show it will play at the majors.

“An elite pitch at this level,” Shildt said.

Acquired from Tampa Bay in the trade that sent Tommy Pham to the Rays, Cabrera impressed during winter ball as a reliever. He saw an uptick in velocity and one of the shorthand scouting reports referred to him as “a lefthanded Carlos Martinez.” That intrigued the Cardinals enough to audition him as a reliever in spring, but it’s been starting where he flourished. Cabrera traced some of his success reaching and holding velocity and utilizing the curve to the one-inning, all-out nature of relieving.

Keeping it all in control is the test.

“I think it’s hard work and preparing myself to go deeper into games,” Cabrera said. “And also being able to pitch in the Dominican as a reliever and how it’s everything I have for one inning – that also helped me to realize my potential, my full potential on how hard I can throw. Those are the two main points.”

PHILS' HERRERA CHARGED 

Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera was arrested Monday night in Atlantic City and charged with simple assault of his 20-year-old girlfriend, a police report stated. Major League Baseball launched an investigation Tuesday into the allegations, and the Phillies placed Herrera, 27, on paid administrative before their game against the Cardinals.

The Phillies learned of the charges early Tuesday morning and, by rule, had to alert the commissioner’s office. They had time to replace Herrera on the active roster with Nick Williams, who started in left field Tuesday night.

Phillies officials, including general manager Matt Klentak, called Herrera to notify him he was not to report to the ballpark.

He will be on administrative leave for at least seven days, and it could be longer as Major League Baseball follows domestic abuse protocols negotiated with the players’ union. Herrera could face an unpaid suspension. The Phillies must await instruction from the commissioner’s office and possibly the outcome of the legal process. Herrera could face jail time, according to local reports. Klentak declined to explore whether Herrera would return, or if he would at all.

“I think that’s premature to speculate at this point,” Klentak said. “There could be one or two steps coming. There could be another 20. We just have to see. … We’re going to be transparent about this. We’re not going to hide the ball. There are no secrets. Whatever we learn, we’ll share it. The league will help us make whatever decision we’re going to make.”

REYES WORKS, WAITS MOVE

In his second tuneup start with High-A Palm Beach, righthander Reyes allowed three runs (one earned) on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings Tuesday. He struck out five. The Cardinals had Reyes scheduled for two starts with their Class A affiliate so that he would not have to hit for himself and stress the left pinkie he fractured last month. The Cardinals would like to see Reyes start at least once for Class AAA Memphis as soon as he’s comfortable gripping a bat and handling it. The recovery from the fractured finger has allowed Reyes a month to build up arm strength and he threw 77 pitches in Tuesday’s start.

ALL-STAR VOTING OPENS

What once assured a player an invitation and starting spot at the annual All-Star Game is now only the beginning. A new voting structure for the All-Star Game was launched by Major League Baseball on Tuesday, and it involves a two-tiered structure to determine the starters for the 90th All-Star Game, which will be held July 9 in Cleveland. The first 25 days of voting, which started Tuesday at MLB.com and all club sites, will be used to determine the finalists for “The Starters Election.” Starting on June 26 there will be a 28-hour voting blitz to determine the starter. Vote totals from the initial selection won’t carry over – so one player could lead his position by thousands of votes to reach the second tier and not be elected as the starter in the runoff. As part of an agreement with Major League Baseball, Google will also feature the voting on its search engine. Finalists will be announced June 27.

All of the pitchers and reserve players will be determined by a vote of their peers and the commissioner’s office. The new structure replaces the “Final Vote” that had been used in recent years.

Dexter Fowler, Marcell Ozuna, and Harrison Bader are the three Cardinals appearing on the online ballot for outfield. There are no paper ballots at ballparks anymore.