There have been a lot of adjectives used to describe the impressive debut of St. Louis Cardinals rookie Magnerius Sierra over the last week. Credit manager Mike Matheny with adding “unflappable” to the list.
“I really do think so,” described Matheny. “He’s going to be tested. The longer you’re here, the more the league’s going to think at figuring you out. He’s just going to have to be able to make the adjustments and stay ahead. But he’s got a simple approach and simple concept of what he wants to do. You see how aggressive he’s going after balls, I think that’s great, how he plays defensively. He’s always looking for that base on the bases. It’s nice to have a player like that.”
With his hit on Sunday, Magnerius Sierra has hit safely in all six of his Major League games and is just one hit in his next game away from tying Enos Slaughter (’38), Terry Pendleton (’84), and Bo Hart (’03) for the Cardinals franchise record of longest hitting streak to begin their career with the team.
“He’s got a whole lot more in there,” continued Matheny. “Whether it’s power, grounding out at-bats–he’s got a lot to learn, but he’s conscientious and he wants to learn and he seems to have the capacity to take in the things the guys are teaching him and talking about each pitcher before they get up there. He’s got an idea. Just a great kid to have around.”
In his six games, Sierra is hitting .375 (9-24) and has scored seven runs while driving in another.
As noted by his manager, the 21-year old rookie is handling the jump from Palm Beach to the big leagues maybe even better than expected–including his first time playing on the field at Busch Stadium this past Saturday.
“It was impressive, it was so exciting for me,” said Sierra, through team translator Alex Noboa. “I was so nervous in the beginning, I wasn’t even seeing faces or the ball at first. Then I settled down. It was impressive.”
The nerves evaporated by his second at-bat and Sierra was even able to take in some of the fans calling out and welcoming him.
“They called me by my name,” he said–which for the record, using Maggy or Magnerius is what he prefers.
As for keeping the hot start to his big league career from getting to big handle, Sierra credits the game itself.
“The thing that helps me stay focused is obviously the fact that what I came here to do is play baseball,” he explained. “It’s not like basketball where it’s such a fast-paced game. Baseball is a slower game, it gives you time to think, to analyze. That keeps me focused. And it keeps things from getting too big because there’s time to think here.”
Sierra learned a bigger lesson a couple of years ago, when after hitting .386 in the Gulf Coast League, Sierra was named the organization’s Minor League Player of the Year in 2014. Then in 2015, he opened the year in Peoria (A) and hit .191 before finishing in Johnson City (rookie).
“In 2014 when I was named Player of the Year, it felt so good,” shared Sierra. “After that, my focus was to get on base. Get on base and I can score and things can go my way. When I was sent to Peoria, maybe things didn’t go my way but then I worked hard, I stayed focused and I saw the results of that in Johnson City. All of that has helped me to be where I am right now.”
But while on the outside it may have appeared as a demotion, Cardinals Director of Player Development Gary LaRocque shares it was actually part of a bigger plan that had been put together–with Sierra’s knowledge.
“When Maggy went to Peoria, the first six weeks, the first month and a half–we tend do that at times,” explained LaRocque. “We want players to experience the next level that they’re shooting for. It gives them the opportunity to see exactly what it is they’re trying to get to next. In this case, he went there and we were less concerned about the production, more concerned about getting him the at-bats and the experience of a higher level against, clearly, players that at the time who were much older than he was.
“He actually held his own, despite the way the numbers looked offensively. With the plan at that point, when we hit June, he was sent to Johnson City by design. He certainly put together a really strong year there. He goes back to Peoria and then when he gets back there, obviously, he took off in the right direction.”
Sierra hit .315 the rest of that season in Johnson City and then put up .307 with 31 steals and 60 RBIs at Peoria last year.
“Everything that did not happen in Peoria (’14), happened in Johnson City,” continued Sierra. “After I got at that level, I knew that I never wanted to leave that level or that professionalism when I was playing baseball, so that really prepared me.”
Which brings us current to his Spring Training this year and 20 games at Palm Beach before being called up to the Cardinals.
Prepared and now executing. Learning and growing. Unflappable.
photo credit: Bill Greenblatt/UPI, Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports