Cardinals shake up their roster, promote Grichuk, Garcia

News-DemocratApril 29, 2014 

— Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak dismissed questions Friday about possible roster changes that could spark the team in the lineup or off the bench.

But Mozeliak on Sunday night promoted outfielder Randal Grichuk and infielder Greg Garcia from Class AAA Memphis, moves that were officially announced early Monday. Second baseman Kolten Wong and outfielder Shane Robinson were sent to Memphis.

Wong's average had dropped to .225 in 20 games and 71 at-bats; Robinson was batting .100 (1-for-20) in 16 games.

"When you say something like it doesn't seem like a move was imminent (Friday), it's possible, but it's something we're always thinking about," Mozeliak said. "Just because we didn't act then. ... There's a lot of different reasons that go into the timing of these things.

"As we got through the weekend, and obviously we had a great game (Sunday), we still felt like if we were going to try to help these individuals get going again, it made more sense to try to do it (in Memphis) than here."

Grichuk, 22, was acquired in November from the Los Angeles Angels with center fielder Peter Bourjos for third baseman David Freese and reliever Fernando Salas. He was batting .310 with eight doubles, three home runs and 17 RBIs in 21 games at Memphis.

"It's a dream come true. I'm speechless right now," said Grichuk, a right-handed hitter who is wearing Jim Edmonds' former No. 15. "All the emotions are sinking in right now. You play this game your whole life to make it up here. I'm happy to be here."

Grichuk entered the game in right field in the late innings of the Cardinals' 5-3 loss in 12 innings to Milwaukee and was 0-for-2. Garcia walked on five pitches as a pinch-hitter in the seventh against Tyler Thornburg.

Garcia, 23, was batting .267 with two doubles, three triples, five homers and 14 RBIs in 21 games. A left-handed hitter, Garcia will wear No. 12. Garcia, who can play second base and shortstop, was a teammate of Wong's at the University of Hawaii.

"It's something special. It's something I've thought about for a long time," Garcia said of joining the big-league club. "Words can't describe how I'm feeling right now. It's a great feeling and I'm happy to be here.

"There's a little nerves, but more excitement than anything just looking around this clubhouse and seeing the guys here. I want to go out and compete and help this team win."

Garcia said Wong was the first person to call and offer congratulations.

"That's the kind of character and the kind of guy Kolten is," Garcia said. "We have a great relationship and nothing's going to change that. He's a great baseball player and he'll be back up here soon."

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said the players deserved the promotion.

"Both of them have gotten off to a real great start," Matheny said. "Garcia has been doing everything --playing well defensively, getting big hits, driving the ball, (a) versatile player. And Randal, (it's) a lot like what we saw in spring --(a) huge upside and has been doing a nice job in center field, one, and also driving in runs and getting big hits for the Triple-A team."

Grichuk was promoted because he can play center field. Stephen Piscotty and Joey Butler are corner outfielders at Memphis, and top prospect Oscar Taveras has only played two games in center this season.

"Randal seemed like the right fit," Matheny said. "But he still is a young player that has an opportunity to grow, so we're going to keep our eyes open to make sure we're not stunting his growth. This is a great opportunity for him overall."

Mozeliak agreed.

"What he was doing down in Memphis was hitting the ball hard and often, and that's a good quality," Mozeliak said. "I would imagine he will get some (playing) time."

Center field is a position that has been unsettled. Bourjos has struggled at the plate (.160) and is 1-for-18 against left-handed pitching (.056), opening more playing for Jay.

"Clearly, (Bourjos) has got to find a way to get his bat going, too, because ultimately, offense plays in this game," Mozeliak said.

Matheny called Garcia "a smart player."

"He does so many things well defensively, does so many things well offensively, grinding out at-bats," he said. "The fact that he's here right now isn't a surprise to me. And the power that he has shown (is) a little more than we've seen in the past."

Wong, 23, enjoyed a strong start to the season after batting .375 in spring training. But he slumped recently, and after going 0-for-4 on Friday against Pittsburgh, he did not play Saturday or Sunday.

"He's putting a lot of pressure on himself to succeed," Mozeliak said. "You look at spring training and he had a really tough first week and then he ended up probably being the best player in our camp. We know he's capable of doing it, but we didn't want him to have him dig himself a hole he couldn't get out of."

The Cardinals signed Ellis, 36, to a free-agent contract in the offseason as insurance for Wong not being ready.

"That's what he was signed for to begin with, to give us that protection," Mozeliak said. "So we'll take advantage of it."

Robinson, 29, has been a part of the Cardinals' bench since 2009. He is a .238 career hitter.

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at dwilhelm@bnd.com or 239-2665. ollow him on Twitter: @DavidMWilhelm.

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