(Busch Stadium) After a busy afternoon in which several moves were made to help change the look of the St. Louis Cardinals bullpen, President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak stepped into the dugout before tonight’s game to explain the various transactions.
“We’ve all watched what we’ve been seeing over the last couple of months and candidly, a couple of things happened,” began Mozeliak. “Obviously, we brought up Gomber and his start, Poncedeleon and his start, and really felt like we had to do something different. Ultimately, we want to give some of these younger guys a chance to pitch out of our bullpen and see how they do. That meant we had to make some changes.”
Those changes included designating for assignment both Greg Holland and Tyler Lyons.
“Obviously, whenever you DFA somebody like a Tyler Lyons or Holland, those are tough decisions to make,” said Mozeliak. “One, because of the financial commitment, the other because he’s been a part of our organization for some time. You don’t have to look too far back, in Tyler’s case, to see how well he was pitching. But clearly, things weren’t working out of the bullpen. Making radical changes or as many changes as we did, we just felt we were in a place where we had internal resources we wanted to give a chance to, so we decided to do it.”
A free agent this past off-season, Holland led the National League with 41 saves for Colorado last year. He did not sign with St. Louis until the start of the regular season and had appeared in 32 games–allowing 22 earned runs in 25 innings.
“Of course, I’m shocked,” said Mozeliak. “You make a $14 million investment, your expectations level are very high. I think we can all look back and have our own opinion of why it didn’t work. I think the narrative of no Spring Training, should we have had him throw more innings at the minor league level before activating him–i mean, all these are all fair questions, but the reality is, when he did get that chance he did not have command. I think that’s what was something that created a bit of…it was paralyzing for him to truly have success. I certainly wish him well. I think we were both disappointed when I was talking to him last night, but ultimately, we have to do something different.”
Reliever Brett Cecil has also had his struggles this season, most recently allowing 6 runs in his last 0.2 innings pitched. He was placed on the 10-day disabled list with inflammation in his right foot.
“It’s been really chronic through most of the season,” shared Mozeliak. “He obviously addressed it this past spring, was hoping that it would just go away. Yesterday, he did receive an injection, so for three days he’ll be shut down but then after that, he’ll be cleared to start baseball activity.”
“We still obviously have a lot of optimism for Brett, still think he’s going to be someone that contributes,” added Mozeliak. “In Holland’s case, I think everybody agreed when we signed him–it seemed like a great idea. But, it didn’t perform. Didn’t happen. Didn’t work. I think the lesson learned there is you understand the importance of Spring Training.”
Taking the place of Holland, Lyons, and Sam Tuivailala are Austin Gomber, Dakota Hudson, and Daniel Poncedeleon.
For now, all three are available out of the bullpen–including Hudson.
“Could he be used as a starter down the road, of course,” acknowledged Mozeliak of Hudson. “But we look at him as someone that can fill-in in those middle innings and be someone that can finish an inning and maybe continue.”
Down the road could be sooner than later, though for any of the trio as it is still unclear if Carlos Martinez, who did throw a bullpen today, will be able to make the start on Monday. There is also a need for a starter on Tuesday.
Under performance wasn’t the driving issue in dealing Tuivailala to Seattle, but rather some additional roster flexibility. Both Tuivailala and Lyons are out of options. In addition, by adding Hudson to the 40-man roster, that is one less player the Cardinals will be able to protect this off-season.
“As we’re starting to look at where we need to be the rest of this season and into next year, we were just a little bit nervous about guys without options and not having that flexibility as we look forward,” said Mozeliak.
Newly acquired Seth Elledge does not have to be protected this off-season. Assigned to Springfield (AA), the right-hander is projected to move quickly and perhaps provide some innings at the big league level next year–with options to be moved back and forth as needed.
Today’s moves addressed the bullpen. But Mozeliak was direct that moves on the position player side of things could also still be addressed.
“The next four or five days, we’re still going to be open to seeing what we can do to improve this club,” he sad. “Today was not a finality in any means, it was just obviously a big change for our bullpen and how it looks. But between now and Tuesday at 3 in the afternoon, we’re going to exhaust as many things as possible.”
But any deal that the Cardinals make moving forward will be with the big picture, not just the rest of 2018 in mind.
“I’m not looking to do something like short term,” stated Mozeliak. “We’re not trying to just put something on here for the next two months. All of our deals would be looking at more long term solutions.”
photo credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports, Brian Stull/STLBaseballWeekly.com