For Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol, the difference he sees with rookie Jordan Walker in his recent return to the majors is evident.
“He looks more and more comfortable at the plate, and he’s taking some really good swings,” Marmol said pregame Wednesday.
The rookie feels it, too.
“Last series, I felt a little bit more relaxed,” Walker said prior to Monday’s series opener against the Giants. “The first few games in MLB it was a little you know, nerves. Jumping a little bit. A little overexcited and swinging a little bit too hard.”
Across his first 11 games since getting recalled to the majors on June 2, Walker hit safely in all but two games and went 12-for-38 with a pair of home runs and five RBIs in that stretch. The success and presence the 21-year-old displayed were enough for Marmol to place Walker in the fifth spot in the batting order as catcher Willson Contreras was out of the starting lineup for regular rest in the series finale against San Francisco.
“I thought it would be good to get him up there and behind Nolan (Arenado) to see how he does,” Marmol explained.
Walker struck out in his first career at-bat in a spot that high in the order and then drove in a run with an RBI single in the third inning that had a 108.1 mph exit velocity, according to Statcast. The single was Walker’s eighth consecutive game with a hit — a streak that began with a 430-foot home run against the Rangers on June 6.
“The past two games I felt a little settled down a little bit in the box,” Walker said. “Maybe, take better pitches and just think about the situation a little bit more. I think it’s just getting used to different levels because these different levels are different no matter what anybody says.”
Walker’s production upon his return picked up where he left off before he was optioned to Triple-A on April 26. He’s hit safely in 26 of 31 MLB games this year and driven in a run in five of his last eight games with his RBI single on Wednesday.
As his groundball rate climbed to 60.4% in the lead-up to his demotion to Triple-A, Walker also struck out 25.6% of his plate appearances and drew walks 3.8% of the time, per FanGraphs. Back in the majors and looking more comfortable, he cut his strikeout rate down to 11.6% and walked 9.3% of the time in his first 11 games.
“He’s continuing to make adjustments,” Marmol said of the rookie. “He’s worked well with our hitting staff, and he’s taken really good swings. There’s still some swing-throughs on that kind of slider down and away, but he’s done a nice job of laying off of some really tough pitches, too. Overall, I think his at-bats have actually been productive.”
Nootbaar to join Class AAA club
While the rest of the Cardinals head to New York to open a three-game series against the Mets on Friday, outfielder Lars Nootbaar will head to Jacksonville to join Class AAA Memphis. It’ll be there where Nootbaar will continue baseball activities for the next couple of days.
The Cardinals hope that Nootbaar will play in rehab games this weekend with Memphis. In recent days, Nootbaar has taken swings and increased his baseball activities on his road back from a lower back contusion that sidelined him on May 29.
A hitless night that included a pair of strikeouts Tuesday gave Nolan Gorman 35 strikeouts in his last 86 plate appearances dating back to May 19. That stretch for the slugging second baseman includes three homers in 22 games and a .565 OPS.
Gorman, who was third in the first voting update for National League second baseman for the All-Star, is batting .252 and owns an .849 OPS that is second among all qualified second baseman in MLB behind Miami’s Luis Arraez (.897).
“That’s this league. He started off extremely hot,” Marmol said. “There’ll be stretches that look like this, and they’ll be stretches that look like early on in the season. It’s to be expected especially as the league tries to adjust to him, and he’ll adjust back. He’s already shown the ability to do that. That’s what this level is all about.”
Naughton gets second opinion on injury
Left-hander Packy Naughton went to Texas to get a second opinion on his left forearm injury and is “deciding on treatment options,” Marmol said. Naughton has been on the IL with a left forearm strain since early April. He exited his first rehab outing Sunday in Class AAA after some discomfort and threw just three pitches before he was removed from the game.
Pitching, Victor Scott II
Adam Wainwright and Jack Flaherty are lined up to start for the Cardinals in the two-game London Series against the Cubs on June 24 and 25. … Outfield prospect Victor Scott II stole his 45th base of the season Tuesday with High-A Peoria. He entered Wednesday 45-for-51 in attempts and with the second most stolen bases across minor-league baseball.
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