The St. Louis Cardinals released their roster for the National League Division Series on Thursday morning and managed to provide a few surprises in the process. The team opted to place 12 pitchers and 13 position players on the roster, which can be altered before each subsequent round of the playoffs if the Cardinals should advance.
John Brebbia, Génesis Cabrera, Jack Flaherty, Giovanny Gallegos, Ryan Helsley, Dakota Hudson, Carlos Martínez, Miles MIkolas, Andrew Miller, Daniel Ponce de Leon, Adam Wainwright, Tyler Webb
Yadier Molina, Matt Wieters
Matt Carpenter, Paul DeJong, Tommy Edman, Paul Goldschmidt, Yairo Muñoz, Kolten Wong
Randy Arozarena, Harrison Bader, Dexter Fowler, José Martínez, Marcell Ozuna
Reliever and former Atlanta Brave John Gant, who made 64 appearances out of the bullpen during the regular season, was left off the roster following a dismal September which saw him allow 7 runs in 4 2/3 innings pitched, while walking 8. Ponce de Leon made the cut despite making only three total appearances and pitching eight innings after July 27th; his background as a starter and ability to throw multiple innings makes him an attractive weapon as a long reliever.
“He provides a link that we can count on,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said Thursday. “He’s done a nice job in that, did a nice job with three scoreless in Arizona, took advantage of the opportunities he was able to receive.”
Starter Michael Wacha, who might otherwise have been a candidate for spot filled by Ponce de Leon, is unavailable as he recovers from a right shoulder strain.
Wainwright was also officially announced as the Cardinals’ scheduled starter for Sunday’s game three at Busch Stadium.
“Waino has good experience, been really good at home,” Shildt said. “He’ll get that opportunity in Game 3 and Dakota will go Game 4.”
Hudson, the game four starter if necessary, will be available out of the bullpen for the first two games in Atlanta, Shildt said Wednesday. Hudson made 26 relief appearances for the Cardinals in 2018 and one this season, recording his first and only Major League save against the Pirates on April 3rd.
“It creates an opportunity,” Shildt explained, “because Dakota has been able to (pitch out of the bullpen), did it last year, has some experience doing it. Obviously has the stuff to be able to come in and get out of a situation, whether it’s a ground ball or, more lately, he has gotten more punch-outs and he’s got length.”“It does create an opportunity to say, hey, we can make an adjustment if we need be early in the game. And we get to a certain point, we’ll be kind of more in our normal bullpen.”
Cabrera’s inclusion was anticipated by the News-Democrat for the past several weeks, as the Braves feature several switch- and left-hitting players that the Cardinals will seek to neutralize using his high velocity fastball and sharp slider from the left side.
Muñoz represents a defensively flexible infielder who’s known to feast on fastballs. His inclusion can in part be credited to whatever concerns linger over Kolten Wong’s recovery from a strained left hamstring. Should an emergency arise, Muñoz can cover innings at second, third, or shortstop. He’s also been used on occasion as a pinch runner, which in concert with his flexibility, likely gave him the nod over righty slugger and first baseman Rangel Ravelo.
“We’ve got two extra infielders that can play multiple positions,” Shildt said. “We use Carp off the bench for an at-bat, and now we’ve got Yairo to come in and double-switch anywhere really because he can play the outfield, but coverage in the infield as well.”
“Ravelo was a tough decision as well. It’s good -- it’s an indication why we’re here; we’ve got guys who have contributed to us being able to get to this point, so tough decisions.”
Arozarena has also been used as a frequent pinch runner in recent weeks, though Ravelo’s exclusion opens up more opportunities for him at the plate. “Puts him in play a little bit more,” was Shildt’s description of his potential role as a hitter.
He recorded an impressive .891 OPS in the Major Leagues this season, though over only 23 plate appearances. In the minors this year, he hit .344 with 15 home runs, 25 doubles, and four triples. He also has experience at all three outfield positions, should the Cardinals require any defensive substitutions. His inclusion likely comes at the expense of Tyler O’Neill, who recorded only one hit in just 12 at bats after August 1st while also striking out seven times.