Mike Shildt’s “A” lineup scored 10 runs in the Cardinals’ previous game on Wednesday night. And then he changed that lineup
Matt Carpenter, who homered, walked and struck out three times in a 10-2 win over Kansas City, was moved out of the leadoff spot and former leadoff man Dexter Fowler was moved in. Carpenter was batting .203 with a .324 on-base percentage. Fowler, who batted first 17 times last year, 51 times in 2017 but not at all this season, was hitting .283 and had an OBP of .413 before Friday’s game here with Atlanta.
But that may not have been the biggest news emanating from Shildt’s pregame media session. Shildt revealed that struggling righthander Michael Wacha will be in the bullpen for the foreseeable future. He certainly won’t start at Philadelphia next week, with a starter for Wednesday’s game to be brought up from Memphis, Shildt said.
That would seem either to be Daniel Ponce de Leon, who had a good start here earlier this season, or fellow righthander Jake Woodford, who would have to be added to the 40-man roster.
President of baseball operations John Mozeliak, speaking first of the offensive change, said, “You look at the month of May (6-14 record) and clearly, it was time to do something different. There have been nights when we’ve put a lot of crooked numbers on the board, and there’s been nights when we’ve put a lot of zeroes on the board.”
Shildt said the Carpenter/Fowler switch, which he had pondered for a while, was made more because of how well Fowler was doing rather than dissatisfaction with Carpenter’s production as a leadoff man.
The lineup change wasn’t all that drastic. Jettisoning former playoff hero Wacha, at least for the moment, was a significant step.
“Michael will be in our bullpen and he’ll be our eighth guy,” Shildt said. “It’s going to be for some period of time — until Michael gets back to a version of him he knows he’s capable of and we know he’s capable of.”
Wacha, who gave up seven runs in 4 2/3 innings on Wednesday, has a 3-2 record and a 5.59 earned run average.
Shildt said he thought Wacha, who has a 56-34 career record with the Cardinals, had better stuff on Wednesday than he had had although his velocity still was down. That seems to have been the case since Wacha came off the 10-day injured list, where he had been with knee tendinitis.
“The reality is that six runs scored on 18 pitches (Wednesday),” Shildt said. “Not a lot of that was hard damage. But the reality was that it was another outing that was not what he would like or we would like.”
Mozeliak, mindful of the regular-season and postseason contributions Wacha has made, said, “Unfortunately, in this game, you’re always left with making some tough decisions. May hasn’t gone as planned. Not making a decision or change probably isn’t the best idea either.”
Wacha, who can be a free agent after the season, still could emerge from the bullpen before the season is over and Shildt said, “I don’t think anybody would argue that if Michael Wacha’s at his best, he’s an elite pitcher. At his best, we’re a better team. But he’s got to go find it.”
SHILDT: I’M NOT A KNEE-JERK GUY
The manager, referencing his Carpenter/Fowler move, said, “I’m not a knee-jerk guy, but I’m not a ... put-my-head- in-the-sand guy either. We’re confident in this lineup. We changed the complexion of it a little.”
The fact the preceding lineup did score double-figure runs not only Wednesday but a couple of other times in the last few weeks did give Shildt pause.
“I thought about that a while,” he said. “We went back and forth with it. We’ve had multiple outbursts of high-scoring games and then some inconsistencies. Change for the sake of change, potentially. But ... Dexter’s really played well and he’s earned the opportunity to go up.”
Carpenter never had campaigned to be the leadoff man. He just hit better there, for the most part. He said Friday night, “I’ll hit wherever the manager writes me in. It was an easy conversation.”
Last year, on May 15, Carpenter was hitting .140, so he is better off, relatively speaking, this year. “Last year, I just felt I got to a point where ... I didn’t know what I was doing,” he said.
“I was completely lost. I haven’t gotten to that point this season.”
Shildt also was asked whether he had considered moving No. 2 hitter Paul Goldschmidt, who had two extra-base hits and five RBIs for the previous month, to either a more customary No. 3 or No. 4 in the lineup. “Our ‘three hole’ hitter (Paul DeJong) candidly is one of the better offensive players in baseball and our ‘four hole’ hitter (Marcell Ozuna) is leading baseball in RBIs,” said Shildt. Ozuna was second with 45 RBIs before Friday’s action.
Shildt said that Jose Martinez, who didn’t start Friday, could hit fifth when he is back in the lineup but Shildt said, “I can’t say he’ll definitely slide right back into it.”
REYES TAKES FIRST BIG STEP BACK
Righthander Alex Reyes, making his first start in several weeks after breaking a bone in his left hand, pitched five innings for Class A Palm Beach on Thursday, giving up two hits and one run, striking out six and walking two while throwing 70 pitches. He topped out at 99 mph.
“I got great reports on Alex,” said Shildt, who noted that Reyes also showed a good slider. Reyes will make one more start for Palm Beach, said Shildt. The next stop would be Class AAA Memphis, where Reyes had been on option anyway when he hurt himself punching a wall.
The process isn’t all about Reyes’ right arm, though. “He’s got to get back to where he can control a bat,” Shildt said. Palm Beach uses a designated hitter.
HELSLEY GOES, THOMAS STAYS
Reliever Ryan Helsley, who flashed a fastball of 98 to 100 mph, has gone back to Memphis to get more work and Lane Thomas, the 26th man for the doubleheader on Wednesday, will stay for a while longer as an extra outfielder.