Hot topics from Hall of Fame baseball writer Rick Hummel's chat with Post-Dispatch subscribers.
ABOUT CARP'S BAT: IT'S EARLY, BUT ...
QUESTION: Matt Carpenter's bat looks slow, slow, slow. Can't the baseball people see this?
COMMISH: I wasn't aware the season was a 10 at-bat experience -- although he has struck out four times. Just before that, though, Carpenter hit a couple of home runs in intrasquad games and had a double and triple against Kansas City.
I know the season is much shorter this year but he should get a longer look than this before giving up on him.
To a follow-up comment about Carpenter's batting style, Commish replied:
I thought Carp was going to be more aggressive on borderline pitches this year and maybe he will be. Umpires are different, especially this year with so many veterans having opted out, so he and others will be seeing many umpires with whom they have little or no familiarity.
EDMAN AT THIRD ... FOR NOW
QUESTION: Is Tommy Edman our new 3B? Don’t we lose that Swiss Army knife advantage that way? Batting 2nd is quite an endorsement of him.
COMMISH: Edman is the new third baseman. But that won't be where he will end up, with all the good third basemen (Gorman, Montero, Nunez) the Cardinals have in their system.
There is that "Swiss Army Knife" advantage that Edman possesses, but some of that is gone in a DH game where there aren't any double switches in the lineup.
IS HUDSON A ONE-YEAR WONDER?
QUESTION: Dakota Hudson: One-year wonder? Or does he actually have a future?
COMMISH: I wouldn't say Sunday's game was a horrific outing. Four runs in 4 1/3 innings.
He will start at Milwaukee next Sunday so let's see how that goes. He had a lot of the plate with some pitches yesterday, though.
Unless he is physically compromised, I don't see any reason why you would do something drastic with him just yet.
Follow-up: I remember when Hudson came up and they used him in relief -- he would carve up hitters quickly by going right at them. Has he changed his approach as a starter?
COMMISH: Yes, Hudson was dominant as a reliever in 2018 after coming up. If his sinkerball isn't working, and it wasn't on Sunday, he usually gets hit. But he won 16 games last season, more than any other rookie. He would seem to deserve another chance or two, don't you think?
CARLSON IN CENTER FIELD?
QUESTION: Where do you see Carlson starting next week? Will he move between RF and CF? Or will he just take over one of the OF spots and be the starter there?
COMMISH: Carlson most likely would play center field when he came up as he saw a lot of time there during the summer camp.
Center field also has provided no hits in three games so far.
WELCOME TO THE SHOW, 'KK'
COMMENT: Looks like KK got an MLB welcome from the lowly Pirates on Friday. You're not in the KBO anymore! Smart that Maddux and Shildt stuck with him, though, so as not to hurt his confidence.
COMMISH: The first hitter reached on an error and Kim admitted he was nervous because it was his first big-league game in an unfamiliar role. He managed to escape the inning with the lead and the save.
Your standards are high. That was the first earned run he has allowed since he got over here.
Follow-up: Should the need arise, is KK able to move back into the rotation? Or is he/the team committed to keeping him in the bullpen all season?
COMMISH: Kim easily could transfer back to the rotation if a need arises. Gallegos will be activated and Reyes and Cabrera could be added relatively soon to abet the bullpen.
KEY TO A BETTER OFFENSE?
COMMENT: DeJong is key to the season offensively. If he can raise his game and give Goldy some pitches to hit in the process, we should be OK. His start is promising.
COMMISH: The even more promising part is that both Goldschmidt and DeJong have started well.
But they weren't going to be the issue. The question was whether the bottom of the order was going to produce, meaning all the outfielders. A mixed bag so far. Fowler and O'Neill both have homered and knocked in two runs. The center fielders are hitless.
Follow-up: Love the way Shildt has crafted the bottom of the lineup. Speed, speed, speed heading back to the top of the lineup. I've never been a fan of the DH, but I liked that part of it for the 'Birds.'
COMMISH: But that No. 9 hitter, especially, has to get on base. Bader was on with two HBPs and an error on Saturday and Thomas with a walk on Sunday. But no hits by either for the weekend.
BADER JUST A FOURTH OUTFIELDER?
QUESTION: Does Bader just profile as a fourth outfielder for defensive and running purposes? The Cards should just recognize that.
COMMISH: You may be exactly right. Bader will get opportunities and if he doesn't hit, it won't look as bad if the rest of the lineup produces. But if several are struggling and he is among that group, he won't get as much chance as someone else to play out of it because of that .205 number he hung up last year.
Bader might provide a better service as a fourth outfielder and pinch runner when you need defense or speed rather than waiting for him to get on himself.
WHY DOES MOLINA BAT SIXTH?
QUESTION: Never understood why Molina bats sixth. Perhaps more concerning, is how does a lineup with Molina, Fowler, O’Neill and Bader (Nos. 6-9) compete against the heavy-hitting DH teams in the AL, especially when the Cards have only one dominant starting pitcher?
COMMISH: In this lineup, I don't seen how you would hit Molina, a pretty good run producer, any lower.
It will be a test in Minnesota, but I would call Carlos Martinez a dominant pitcher if he is on his game, and he is pitching Tuesday night.
TAPPING THE BRAKES ON A REYES COMEBACK
QUESTION: Heard anything about how Reyes looks? (both health-wise and effectiveness)? Should we be expecting him to pitch like a once-No. 1 overall prospect?
COMMISH: Alex Reyes reportedly is doing well at Springfield in side sessions. He will have one more of those and then face hitters. And by the end of the week, they may have seen enough to decide whether or not to bring him back.
Whether he still is that elite No. 1-type prospect remains to be seen.
Follow-up: How will Reyes be used when he comes back?
COMMISH: Reyes likely will be in the bullpen when he comes up but the plan, if he is healthy, is to start next season.
AND THAT'S A WINNER (FOR ANOTHER TEAM)
QUESTION: Saw that three Cardinals draft picks/signings started and won for other teams on opening day: Marco Gonzales (traded to M's), Lance Lynn (decision to let him walk), Sandy Alcantara (traded to Marlins). Please give your assessment of each of those moves.
COMMISH: Gonzales has been for Seattle what the Cardinals had hoped he would be for them. This year will be the acid test because Tyler O'Neill, who came in return, will get his first shot at being a regular.
Letting Lynn leave could be interpreted as a mistake, but the Cardinals liked their pitching depth.
Alcantara went to Miami in a deal that brought to the Cardinals Marcell Ozuna, who gave them two decent years. Alcantara could develop into an ace, but not yet. That trade didn't bother me.
BIG TRIP, RIGHT OFF THE BAT
COMMENT: This 3-city road trip is going to tell us a lot about where we are: Dealing with being more or less quarantined, and playing two quality opponents plus a Detroit team that won 2 of 3 over the weekend. Usually we'd hope for breaking even on the road, but it seems we need more than that this season.
COMMISH: With the playoff field being expanded to eight of 15 teams in each league, we're not at make-or-break time just yet. But, as you point out, the urgency for the team to take care of itself off the field is paramount, let alone facing two clubs like Minnesota and Milwaukee in their ballparks, especially in Target Field, where the Cardinals rarely have played.
NEW PLAYOFF FORMAT: COMMISH NOT A FAN
QUESTION: What do you think of the new playoff format? Frankly, there is not much incentive to win a division.
COMMISH: The new playoff format is a joke and done strictly for TV. The reward for winning the division should have been a free pass for the first round and to move directly into the division round rather than having to play a crapshoot two-out-of-three series.
Yes, all the games would be at home but, without fans, it is not an advantage commensurate with a first-place record.
LOOKING BACK AT WHITEY AND TEMPY'S RELATIONSHIP
QUESTION: You covered Garry Templeton during his tenure as a Cardinal. What do you make of his comments in a book by Brad Balukjian that Whitey Herzog (figuratively) stabbed Templeton in the back? According to Templeton, Whitey told him to not run hard the day of the Ladies' Day incident in 1981. Templeton also said he behaved the way he did because the fans were shouting racial slurs and throwing ice at him. ... Finally, he said his whole hospital stay was bogus, that he played ping pong and threw the medication they gave him in the toilet.
Would love to get your thoughts on all that. Whitey flat-out said that Templeton had a drug problem, and Templeton has portrayed the whole thing as a racial incident and team betrayal.
COMMISH: You are correct that Whitey told Templeton to take it easy while running because of a leg injury, with which he was playing. He did not mean that to cover not running out a strike three that had gotten away.
I was not aware what happened during Templeton's hospital "stay." Whitey did not publicly say for years that he thought Templeton had a drug problem but he did believe that.
This whole situation could have been handled better, but Templeton didn't help his cause by his vulgar gesture, no matter how unfairly he thought he was being treated. And, yes, ice was thrown, so the crowd doesn't get off with a pass, either.
On one side, it's too bad a great talent couldn't stay here. On the other, Ozzie Smith came in return and the Cardinals won three pennants and one World Series.
But I always will appreciate Templeton's talent and his candor.
QUESTION: Always glad to hear Bob Forsch's name come up, as it did after Waino's start Saturday. Any good stories about him that the fans may not know about?
COMMISH: My favorite came late in the 1983 season when Forsch became upset with something that Gary Carter had done during a Forsch start in Montreal. Forsch said after that game that he might have to do something about it the next time the teams played.
They played less than a week later in St. Louis. Forsch threw a no-hitter. But, just because . . . he hit Carter in the butt with a pitch along the way.
QUESTION: What do you think of the Dodgers/Betts contract (12 years, $365 million)? Kind of an odd time for an organization to commit that much money with the uncertain financial future of the game and the new CBA coming up.
COMMISH: I'm sure other players are delighted that Betts got his money, fueling the notion -- misguided perhaps -- that other free agents will reap rewards, too.
The Dodgers have taken a chance here, but they must have the wherewithal to pull it off.