Injuries forced the St. Louis Cardinals to shuffle their deck Sunday.
Center fielder Dexter Fowler (right heel spur) and left-handed reliever Kevin Siegrist (cervical spine sprain) were placed on the 10-day disabled list.
Outfielder Randal Grichuk and right-hander Mike Mayers were recalled from Class AAA Memphis. Grichuk started in left field, batted cleanup and hit a home run in an 8-4 victory over Pittsburgh in a nationally televised game on ESPN.
The Cardinals also purchased the contract of first baseman Luke Voit from Memphis and optioned outfielder Chad Huffman to the Redbirds. Voit, a right-handed hitter and graduate of Lafayette High in St. Louis where David Freese and Ryan Howard went to school, was batting .322 with 23 doubles, 12 home runs and 48 RBIs in 70 games.
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“It’s what I’ve been waiting for since I was a little kid, man,” said Voit, a bruising 6-foot-3, 225-pounder who basically becomes the new Matt Adams from the opposite side of the plate. “Growing up, you know, being a Cardinals fan, coming to Busch every year, I don’t know; I’ve been shaking since last night. It’s a great feeling.
“It’s one of things where you want it to happen and then all of a sudden it happens. It’s crazy man. I’m just so happy to be here right now. I’m lost for words.”
Pinch-hitting in the seventh, Voit was hit by a 3-2 pitch from Pittsburgh reliever Jhan Marinez in the Cardinals’ four-run uprising. Voit smiled as he jogged to first, as did his parents, who were shown on the scoreboard.
“I didn’t even feel it, honestly,” a still-smiling Voit said after the game. “I had so much adrenaline running through me. I felt like I was in my backyard again. It was awesome. It was the coolest thing I’ve ever done – come to bat in the big leagues. It’s something I’ll always remember.”
Voit became the fifth Cardinal to be hit by a pitch in his debut game.
The Cardinals traded Adams to the Atlanta Braves in May because they didn’t have a spot for him. Adams was auditioned in left field, an experiment that didn’t go well.
Voit, like Adams, is a first baseman. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said he could use Voit at catcher, a proposition that isn’t likely with Yadier Molina and Eric Fryer on the roster.
General Manager John Mozeliak said the Cardinals have no intentions of moving Matt Carpenter from first base to second base to make room for Voit, a 22nd-round draft pick in 2013 out of Missouri State. St. Louis already has plenty of depth at second, including starter Kolten Wong, who is on the disabled list.
“The question is where would you move Matt, so that would be something that I think we would consider, but we don’t exactly know where,” Mozeliak said of redeploying Carpenter. “We are expecting Kolten Wong to rejoin the club possibly as early as next weekend. Thus, the way I think about Voit is in the short-term to, A) give Matt Carpenter a break from time to time and, B) also just to see how he reacts to major league pitching.”
Fowler aggravated his right heel making a catch Saturday. Grichuk, who was in the minor leagues to refine his swing, wouldn’t have been back were it not for Fowler’s setback.
The Cardinals wanted the power-hitting Grichuk to cut down on his strikeouts in the minors when they dispatched him to Jupiter, Florida, on May 29 to work with hitting guru George Greer. Grichuk fanned 20 times in 63 at-bats, but hit .270 with six homers and nine RBIs.
Grichuk wasted no time making a contribution. He smoked a bases-empty homer in the sixth against Chad Kuhl, a drive that carried 478 feet into Big Mac Land. It was the longest homer by a Cardinal in Busch Stadium III history and the second-longest homer overall. Only Keon Broxton (489 feet) of Milwaukee has hit a longer homer.
“I feel a lot more confident. My swing feels a lot better,” Grichuk said. “It was kind of good to take a step back and breathe. To be able to work on some things in a less intense atmosphere, less pressure atmosphere, and really be able to simplify things.
“It was just kind of working on feel. How does this feel? How does that feel? (Greer) did watch a lot of video and talked to me about what he saw and what I needed to do differently to succeed in the sense of my rhythm and timing and load, those kinds of things. But it’s more so simplifying things and feeling for what works for me.”
Mozeliak is eager to get another look at Grichuk. Two weeks ago, Mozeliak said a time would come when the Cardinals would have to play Grichuk and let him “sink or swim.”
“What I meant by that is that at some point, you have to lose the label of a prospect,” Mozeliak said. “At some point, you have to decide if you’re an everyday player in the big leagues. Performance drives that answer. When I referenced that (sink or swim), it was solely meaning that he’s at a point in his career where he has to get it done.”
Grichuk is confident he can help.
“Really, the way I’m seeing it is just getting an opportunity to go out there and play,” he said. “I’m not going to put too much pressure on myself in the sense of sink or swim. I know I can play. I’ve played up here, I’ve put up good numbers. It’s just a matter of staying out of my head, going up there and simplifying things. Seeing the ball and reacting to it.”
Fowler’s injury is a concern for the Cardinals. The switch-hitter who signed a five-year, $82.5-million contract in the offseason, also has a history of hamstring and quad injuries.
“From what I’m hearing from the doctors, it doesn’t sound too concerning,” Mozeliak said. “But it does sound like it could be chronic at this time. How you manage it, I think, is critical.”
Mayers broke in with the Cardinals last July 24. In a start against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Mayers allowed eight hits, two of them homers, and nine earned runs in 1 1/3 innings of a 9-6 loss at Busch Stadium.
Mayers pitched in three games as a reliever in September and finished 1-1 with a 27.00 ERA. This season at Memphis, he was 5-6 with a 3.74 ERA in 14 starts.
“My debut and then back in September, it was all a learning process,” said Mayers, who will work out of the bullpen. “It didn’t go the way I wanted it to go, but I feel like where I’m at, right now (after) my last few outings, I’m ready to go.”