MILWAUKEE — For the first pitching roster move of the season, the Cardinals turned to a reliever who was the last cut of spring training and must trust his effectiveness will be worth the wait for his availability.
A few hours after lefty Packy Naughton abruptly left Friday’s game with discomfort in his forearm, Genesis Cabrera boarded a flight to rejoin the Cardinals from Class AAA Memphis. Cabrera threw two innings and 27 pitches for the Triple-A Redbirds on Friday, meaning the Cardinals won’t be able to use him until Sunday’s series finale at the earliest. Manager Oliver Marmol said the choice was guided by one already made in spring — when the Cardinals took lefty Naughton ahead of Genesis.
“He was the last man out,” Marmol said. “That’s the guy we’re going to count on next.”
Naughton was initially diagnosed with a left forearm strain and could miss an extended stretch of games. During the eighth inning Friday, he signaled to the dugout by clenching his fist after misfiring on a pitch that walked Christian Yelich. Naughton had an MRI taken of his elbow and forearm Saturday in St. Louis, and once that’s reviewed by the team’s medical staff the Cardinals will have a picture of the extent of damage and a potential treatment for an injury in a problematic area for pitchers.
Cabrera had yet to give up a run in three appearances and 3 1/3 innings for Memphis. He had also walked two and struck out none.
A lefty fixture of the Cardinals’ bullpen as recently as 2021, Cabrera saw a notable sag in velocity last season. The lefty’s average fastball dipped from 97.7 mph in 2021 to 96.1 mph last season, and that narrowed the gap with both changeup (90.2 mph average). This spring, the Cardinals saw the necessary velocity restored. He did not walk a batter in seven innings and struck out seven against nine hits allowed.
“It’s a guy who has contributed at this level, who we’re familiar with,” Marmol said. “With Naughton going down we feel good about being bale to bring him back.”
Walker’s swing stays in
One of the factors that Marmol has used to guide his choices and create some platoons over the past 13 months is how an opposing starter’s pitches line up against a hitter’s swing path. Alec Burleson’s high-contact rate and ability to drive elevated fastballs kept him in the lineup, while other left-handed batters may get their swings against sinkerballers.
Rookie Jordan Walker, despite his 6-foot-6 frame, was always going to start and start a lot in the early weeks of his major-league career, but his swing has helped make that decision for Marmol because of how well the 20-year-old adjusts to different elevations.
“He can get underneath and scoop some balls if needed,” Marmol said. “He’s also flat enough that he can get to the top of the zone and not be underneath (a pitch). He has some versatility to what he can do at the plate. He has different ways he can hit. It’s not where he has one swing path that he has to double down on and stay away from everything else. He can get to a decent amount.”
And that goes for style, too.
Tested by off-speed pitches out of the zone late in spring training, Walker has recalibrated to seeing more of them, too. On Friday, Walker extended his hitting streak to seven games to open his big-league career by tagging a slider for a single up the middle. He’s batting .467 against breaking balls so far this season. His 15 balls struck with an exit velocity of 95 mph or faster rank fifth in the majors, per Baseball Savant.
On Saturday, he extended his hitting streak to eight games with a homer in the third inning. He and Ted Williams are the only players since 1901 to start their careers at 20 or younger with a hitting streak of eight or more games.
“They spun him a little bit there at the end of spring training, and we saw him expand,” Marmol said. “He adapts pretty quickly. He understand what certain people are going to do. … Right now, I’m just in a mode where you let him play.”
Brewers ‘experiment’ with extended beer sales: report
By introducing a pitch timer to reduce the time of games by around 20 minutes, Major League Baseball has also reduced the time teams have to sell things to fans. Milwaukee is “experimenting” with a response. This weekend, as the Brewers host the Cardinals, beer sales at American Family Field will be extended an extra inning, through the eighth, according to MLB.com.
“This is (due to) the fact that the games are shorter,” president of business operations Rick Schlesinger told the web site. “From a time perspective, we’re probably looking at selling beer for the same amount of time by extending to the eighth inning (what) we did last year through the seventh. Obviously, the safety and the conduct of our fans has primacy.”
Schlesinger said other teams are considering similar changes.
The two teams from the Show-Me State, the Cardinals and the Royals, and the Mets were the only teams to reach Saturday’s games without committing an error yet this season. For the first time in club history since 1901, the Cardinals, two-time winner of the Rawlings Gold Glove Award for team defense, have started a season with seven consecutive error-free games. … Luke Voit, a Lafayette High grad and former Cardinal, turned a strong spring and the power of an opt-out into the potential of a two-year deal with Milwaukee. Voit, 32, started Saturday against the Cardinals. He signed a minor-league deal with the Brewers for spring training, and in the same weekend he exercised his right to opt-out and seek a big-league contract elsewhere he got one – with the Brewers. Voit signed a one-year, $2-million deal that includes a $12-million team option for 2024. He hit .310 with a .571 slugging percentage in the Cactus League.
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