Third baseman Jhonny Peralta was designated for assignment Friday by the St. Louis Cardinals, who activated second baseman Kolten Wong from the disabled list.
Peralta, 35, was batting .204 (11 for 54) with no RBIs in 21 games. He was on the disabled list with an upper respiratory infection for more than a month and later had a reaction to the medication he was taking to fight the illness.
Peralta was in the fourth and final year of a $53-million deal he signed in November 2013.
“I really was seeing whether there was going to be an opportunity for us to ever use Jhonny,” said Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak, whose 26-32 team is coming off an 0-7 road trip and has lost 17 of its last 22 games. “That opportunity just didn’t show itself.
“Frankly, we just decided that today we were going to have to make a move to get Kolten on (the roster). It came down to, ‘Let’s just DFA Jhonny, and we’ll take the weekend and see if there’s a place for him.’”
Mozeliak said Peralta was “a little bit” disappointed to hear the news.
“But also, he recognized there was no playing time (available),” Mozeliak said. “He wasn’t getting the at-bats that he wanted. He didn’t see himself, necessarily, as a role player for us. As I stated last week, when you look at the success (Jedd) Gyorko was having, getting at-bats for Jhonny was going to be difficult.”
As far as where Mike sits, I want him to feel confident that we trust him to do his job, and we want to give him that. But we clearly need to be doing better.
John Mozeliak, Cardinals’ GM on the status of manager Mike Matheny
The Cardinals also made changes on their coaching staff, as announced by Mozeliak at a Busch Stadium press conference.
Third-base coach Chris Maloney was reassigned to a new role in the organization that is yet to be determined. Mike Shildt, the Cardinals’ quality control coach, will move to third base to replace Maloney and also be responsible for outfield defense.
Assistant hitting coach Bill Mueller is on a leave of absence, and the Cardinals have summoned Mark Budaska, the hitting coach at Class AAA Memphis, to St. Louis to help fill Mueller’s responsibilities. Mozeliak does not know when Mueller will return.
Also, Ron “Pop” Warner will join the coaching staff and could help fill Shildt’s previous role as quality control coach, so Shildt can focus on his new position at third-base coach and outfield defense instructor. Warner had been serving as a minor-league infield coach. First-base coach Oliver Marmol will continue in his role and serve as infield coach.
“The tough part about these types of decisions is you feel like you’re sort of pointing at one person for mistakes,” Mozeliak said when asked about Maloney’s performance as third-base coach, which had included having several runners thrown out at the plate in recent weeks. “I hope everybody recognizes all of us feel responsible for where we are.
“However, you can’t just blow the whole thing up. Ultimately, we felt we had to do something different today.”
Hitting instructor John Mabry was retained despite the Cardinals’ offensive malaise. The team is batting .248 and is ranked 13th of 15 teams in the National League with 232 runs. Only San Francisco (224) and San Diego (209) have scored fewer runs.
“From ownership, front office to our major-league staff, this is not how we envisioned it,” Mozeliak said. “This season has not gone as we had hoped. When you think back to the offseason, our expectations were extremely high coming into this year. There’s been different facets of the game we’ve said we were going to focus on and try to improve upon, and we’ve come up short.
“Doing nothing and hoping for a different outcome is just not the right strategy.”
Mozeliak was frustrated by road trip to Chicago and Cincinnati. Not only did the Cardinals drop all seven games, four of them to the Reds, but they squandered five leads.
I really was seeing whether there was going to be an opportunity for us to ever use Jhonny. That opportunity just didn’t show itself.
“The road trip definitely said we had to do something different,” Mozeliak said, recalling a conversation he had Thursday night with manager Mike Matheny. “Everybody’s frustrated. This is not meeting our expectations; it’s not meeting Mike’s expectations. As we looked at what we could do or could not do ... we had to approach it as, ‘Everything’s on the table.’
“Managers have strong relationships with their coaches. These are not fun times when you’re having to do this. This is a breakdown on many levels, and we get it. The hope today is there’s some change and there’s some positive response.”
The Cardinals’ offensive woes still have not been addressed, although Matt Carpenter has been moved back into his familiar leadoff role with Dexter Fowler dropping to No. 2 in the order. Carpenter began Friday hitting .216, while Fowler was batting .222.
“It’s hard to win games when you’re scoring 2 1/2 runs a game,” Mozeliak said. “There’s no doubt about it. It magnifies everything; it puts pressure on everything. When you look at how we were thinking about this offense to work, it hasn’t done so. We envisioned this as how Dex and Carp went, we would go. We just haven’t been able to do that.
“We’ve got to find a way to score runs and be more productive.”
Mozeliak hopes the presence of Budaska could spark the offense.
“When you look at our current roster, how many people he’s worked with and when he was working with them, how successful they were,” Mozeliak said. “I don’t look at him as the bat whisperer or something, but I look at him as someone that has a way of doing this that might not necessarily be identical to how John Mabry might. Having a different voice makes sense, given where our offense is.”
It’s hard to win games when you’re scoring 2.5 runs a game. There’s no doubt about it. It magnifies everything; it puts pressure on everything.
Mozeliak has less than two months to determine whether the Cardinals will be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline.
“We’ll take the next four to six weeks and see what changes are being made,” Mozeliak said. “If it’s not to the point of where we feel the next level of investment makes sense for this year, then we may have to start thinking about the following year. We’re not prepared to go down that path today, but from where we sit, we have to be open-minded to that.”
Mozeliak acknowledged the second-guessing of Matheny, but said for the time being, the Cardinals will do what they can to give Matheny their confidence.
“As far as where Mike sits, I want him to feel confident that we trust him to do his job, and we want to give him that. But we clearly need to be doing better,” Mozeliak said.
Mozeliak still believes the Cardinals can make a run for the postseason, but “not if we don’t start hitting.”
“You look at our rotation and I feel pretty confident if we can get into a short series,” Mozeliak said. “But again, if you’re not scoring runs, it puts a lot of pressure on everything else. Do I think we have the pieces to be a playoff team? Yes. But do we have to start playing better – and fast? Yes.”
Mozeliak said outfielder Randal Grichuk, who recently was optioned to high-Class A Palm Beach to work out his hitting issues, could return to the Cardinals soon. Grichuk was promoted Friday to Memphis, where he will play this weekend. Mozeliak made it sound like one more chance is all that would be afforded Grichuk.
“Come Tuesday, we’ll have an opportunity to sort of look at where we are and what we need to do,” Mozeliak said. “At some point, we’re going to have to give Grichuk the opportunity to do this every day and sink or swim. As we start to look at what 2018 looks like, and beyond, we need a real sense of where we are.”
David Wilhelm: @DavidMWilhelm