A return to the starting lineup Tuesday night was the best remedy for St. Louis Cardinals rookie shortstop Aledmys Diaz as he continued to come to grips with the death of his close friend, Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez.
Fernandez, 24, died in a boating accident early Sunday morning. Diaz stayed in Chicago on Sunday night after the Cardinals completed their series agaisnt the Cubs, flew to Miami on Monday to attend a service for close friends and family of Fernandez, then returned to St. Louis and watched from the dugout as the Cardinals were pounded 15-2 by Cincinnati.
“I think the best way to honor him is to come here every day and play this game 100 percent. I think that’s what he would want,” said the 24-year-old Diaz, who grew up three houses away from Fernandez in Santa Clara, Cuba. “If I go out there and play 100 percent every day, I’ll give my team a chance to win.
“He loved this game. He liked to compete. Every time I have a chance to play a game, I’m going to go out there and give everything I can. ... We have to look at the legacy he gave us: Come here every day and have fun on the field. You have to have fun out there and be the best teammate you can be. That’s the way I’m looking at it right now.”
Diaz helped the Cardinals to a 12-5 win over Cincinnati with a grand slam in the fourth, one of five Cardinals home runs. Diaz was beckoned from the dugout by the fans and from the top step of the dugout doffed his helmet and looked to the sky.
Diaz said he woke up about 9:30 Sunday morning and noticed he had received an unusual number of texts. He immediately called his family, and his mom confirmed the the news about Fernandez. Diaz then began dealing with the shock.
“You can’t describe that. Even now, I can’t do that. It’s tough,” Diaz said. “I had to take a moment and start thinking (about it). It’s unbelievable what happened.”
Two of Fernandez’s friends also were killed in the accident, which occurred when the boat, traveling at a high rate of speed, crashed into a jetty.
Diaz was aware of Fernandez’s passion to be on the water, but said he had never spent time with Fernandez on a boat ride.
“I don’t like the sea,” Diaz said. “He loved it. He loved to be in the boat with his friends. It’s very sad that it happened.”
Diaz homered against Fernandez in the Cardinals’ 5-4 victory over the Marlins on July 28 at Marlins Park. The two were able to laugh about it.
“It’s a moment I’ll never forget,” Diaz said. “I talked to him two days after that and he told me, ‘Next year, I want to strike you out a few times.’”
Diaz was sidelined from Aug. 1 until Sept. 12 with a broken right thumb. Since he returned, he’s experienced shoulder soreness that has limited his availability.
“I feel good. I feel 100 percent,” Diaz said. “I think at this moment, you have to go out there and play. It’s a long season. You’re not going to be 100 percent every time. Right now, my team needs me.”
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Diaz will be “on a day-to-day watch.”
“We continue to let the trainers give us some feedback if something doesn’t look right,” he said. “It’s a position where you need to be sharp with your throws.”
Carpenter back in action
Matt Carpenter missed the game Monday but returned to the starting lineup Tuesday, playing second base and batting at the top of the Cardinals’ order. He was 1-for-4 with a home run.
Carpenter is dealing with soreness and inflammation in his right ring finger.
“We’re going to continue to watch him,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “The medical team keeps kind of working on him. This could be one of those things that’s going to nag him at times. Hopefully, he can square the ball up. It seems like when that happens, it doesn’t hurt too bad. Easier said than done.”
It’s looking more and more likely that left fielder Matt Holliday will not see playing time in the regular season because of the broken thumb on his right hand that still is sore.
Holliday has taken one live batting-practice session on the field and the Cardinals wanted him to take another, but that might not happen before the regular-season finale Sunday.
“To try to imagine him being cleared to be ready for a game, I think, would be difficult,” Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak said. “But there’s still some level of hope, and at this point, he has not shut it down.”
If the Cardinals are able to make the playoffs, Holliday could be an option. There’s also the possibility he would be activated this weekend if the Cardinals believe he could pinch-hit.
The Cardinals won’t make a determination on their starter for the game at noon Saturday agaisnt Pittsburgh until later this week. Part of their decision will be based on whether they’re still in contention for a wild-card spot.
It would have been Jaime Garcia’s turn, but Garcia was lifted after an ineffective first inning Monday in which he allowed four hits, two of them home runs, and three stolen bases.
“We’re just going to have to wait and see,” Matheny said. “There’s not like a mystery pitcher we go grab. You guys see what we’ve got. Speculate away and you’re probably not far off. We’ll keep watching and seeing what’s going to give us our best chance.”
Kolten Wong injured his right shoulder when he slipped and fell while playing left field Friday in Chicago. Wong can hit, but his shoulder remains sore, making throwing difficult.
Wong received an injection in the shoulder Monday, Mozeliak said.
“He can swing the bat, but defensively he’s probably a day away,” Mozeliak said.