As the St. Louis Cardinals prepare to open the second half of the season, they find themselves with a record of 46-42 and seven games out of first place in the National League Central Division.
“I feel like it was something that was an odd first half in terms of maybe not the things we expected,” assessed General Manager John Mozeliak in a Tuesday interview. “Overall, I was happy that from an offensive standpoint we outperformed what a lot of people expected. I would say our rotation was disappointing in the first month but has since come around. I think the bullpen was relatively strong up until the last three to four weeks, which I feel will get back to full strength with Siegrist and Rosie for the second half.
And when you look at our club overall, I think the defense was something that none of us saw happening and was a little frustrating but as we continue to shore that up, I think we’re going to play better. So I’m pretty excited about the second half. I really feel like it’s a club that believes in itself. I think there’s a lot of confidence there and I’m looking forward to it beginning.”
Indeed, the Cardinals rank in the Top 5 of the National League in Runs (2nd), Home Runs (4th), Walks (3rd), and Strikeouts (3rd fewest).
And while the rotation has looked stronger and reliever Kevin Siegrist is expected back in the bullpen soon, the return date for infielder Matt Carpenter and what his absence will mean for the offense is not as clear.
But as noted above, the General Manager is hopeful that all of the team’s pieces will still fit into a winning puzzle.
“I think my big question is where Brandon Moss is going to be–what our expectations with him might look like,” said Mozeliak. “Hopefully, have a Jordan Walden update by early next week and get a sense of really what this club’s going to look like.
“One of the biggest hurdles that you have as a General Manager when you’re dealing with injured players is a) trying to understand when they’re going to come back and what you can expect from then when they come back.”
Mozeliak refers to last season with Matt Holliday’s quad injury as a lesson learned in that respect.
“When he did come back, he came back too soon and then when he finally did return he just wasn’t maybe the Holliday we were used to seeing,” he explained. “So we have to bake into that some regression in performance to some level and ultimately that can help us drive decisions.
“In Carp’s case, when he finally does come back, can we expect him to go at 100% and be what he was before. Time will tell, but I have to caution myself on what to expect.”
Also different this season, the Cardinals find themselves trailing in the standings rather than atop the division.
“The mentality has to be that you’re playing to catch,” stated Mozeliak. “When you think about that, again all the little things that we’re dealing with have to come into play, and then as you approach the 31st trading deadline is there something out there that can help you get over that hump or make you that much stronger?
“We’ll spend a lot of time looking at that and understanding that and have a good sense of what this trade deadline might look like and then ultimately, we’ll have to make a decision. But I do think we do have time on our side, so patience is definitely going to be our approach.”
That being said, Mozeliak did acknowledge that he has been more active placing phone calls over the last few days than in seasons past.
“Still a lot of time between now and the 31st and lots of things can happen,” he reiterated, not concerned yet about striking first with a deal. “I’m not exactly sure what my targets are and that creates some of the problem, so we’re going to continue to assess that and as we get closer, decide how we want to approach it.”
KELLY REWARDED TO MEMPHIS
–Recently promoted to the Memphis Redbirds (AAA) catcher Carson Kelly should receive his first at-bats with the team when they resume their second half of the season on Thursday. With the promotion of both Alberto Rosario and Michael McKenry to the Cardinals, Memphis was left with only Michael Ohlman behind the plate.
“This is based more on reward,” clarified Mozeliak on the move. “You look at what he was able to accomplish the first half of the season at Double-A, I think he accomplished everything we wanted him to from an offensive standpoint–arguable maybe even exceeded it. Now it’s about taking a step for that higher level and ultimately getting tested there. So good news for him and certainly well-earned.”
Kelly, who is expected to receive the bulk of playing time behind the plate, hit .287 for Springfield (AA) and recently appeared in the MLB Futures Game.
photo credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports, Bill Greenblatt/UPI, St. Louis Baseball Weekly