One piece without a fit.  St. Louis Cardinals option lefty Gorman back to minor leagues

One piece without a fit. St. Louis Cardinals option lefty Gorman back to minor leagues

Behind his desk in his office in Busch Stadium on Sunday morning, Cardinals manager Oli Marmol politely but resolutely interrupted a mid-question reporter with a half-smile.

“Are you asking if I like (outfielder Alec) Burleson or (second baseman Nolan) Gorman?”

When told that, with the current roster of the Cardinals, there might only be room for one of those new left-handed bats on a postseason roster, he said better at bat.”

And then, when the next question was asked, “Couldn’t agree more.”

Late on Tuesday night, the ground shifted under the competition.

Gorman, who hit 14 home runs in the majors and 29 combined between MLB and Triple-A, was sent to Memphis the last week of their season. He was replaced on the roster by Juan Yepez, who injured himself on a throw to the plate from right field in mid-July and has not returned to the big league since, except for a one-day cameo in late August when Nolan Arenado was placed on the paternity list.

The decision to send Gorman was not made in a roster vacuum, though he certainly hasn’t helped his case in recent weeks. This month, coming into play on Tuesday, he is only 4-for-29 with 15 strikeouts. Several at bats over the weekend against mediocre pitching from Cincinnati — some including a chance at a draw or taking the lead — seemed uncompetitive.

On Sunday, hours after the discussion with Marmol, Gorman came at the plate with two ups and two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning and St. Louis trailing three. Reds righty reliever Joel Kuhnel — his 5.75 ERA over 48 relief appearances — sniffs Gorman on three pitches.

Nolan Gorman of the St. Louis Cardinals is congratulated by teammates after hitting a solo homerun in the third inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in July.  Gorman, who hit 14 home runs in the majors and 29 combined between MLB and Triple-A, was sent to Memphis the last week of their season.

Nolan Gorman of the St. Louis Cardinals is congratulated by teammates after hitting a solo homerun in the third inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in July. Gorman, who hit 14 home runs in the majors and 29 combined between MLB and Triple-A, was sent to Memphis the last week of their season.

The pop of the cardinals from the right is hit

Kuhnel’s dexterity – and that of Gorman and Yepez – are pertinent factors to the discussion, given how heavily protected Gorman has been in his rookie season. Only 23 of his 313 at bats were against left pitchers, although neither his batting average nor strikeout count is noticeably worse due to the unfavorable distribution.

However, with Tyler O’Neill back on the injured list with another strained hamstring, the Cardinals’ potential pop from the right side of the plate has taken quite a beating. Yepez is helping in that division, especially heading into a week where the Cardinals are likely to face at least four left starters.

Where Yepez doesn’t help, however, is on the defensive side of the ball. That’s an area where Gorman is also coming under pressure, although not in the way many thought at the start of the season. He has acquitted himself as a passable defender in the second moment, albeit a little shaky on hard-hit grounders that require him to move sideways.

the pinching

Marmol has indeed expressed a preference for Gorman’s defense in second place, for super utility player Brendan Donovan, who would now seemingly be lining up to take over that position any day in an attempt to keep his bat in the lineup. to keep. With the arm of a third baseman and a fearless willingness to fill in for the sack, Gorman’s double plays helped maximize Nolan Arenado’s prodigious skill at third base.

The pressure comes instead from two other right-handed bats who nevertheless try to keep the Cardinals off the plate at all costs. Ben DeLuzio was recalled to Yepez on September 1 as a defensive substitute in centerfield and an option as pinch runner. Marmol said the organization named DeLuzio their best center back defender earlier in the season, save for ex-Cardinal Harrison Bader; to date he has confirmed that opinion.

Paul DeJong, since being recalled from Memphis just before the trade deadline, has gone into a flat offensive turn. After a brief rebound since August 10, DeJong is 11-for-74 with only one homerun and 29 strikeouts. For the season, his OPS+ is 60, making him 40% worse than a league average batter.

One piece without a fit

However, DeJong has crossed the necessary service time barrier to prevent the Cardinals from returning him to Memphis without his permission. And whatever his struggles at the plate, he remains an excellent defensive shortstop. In his last 16 appearances, DeJong appeared in the sixth inning or later in the game 11 times; he has taken one or zero at bats in 10 of those games.

Therein lies the squeeze for Gorman. He hits from the wrong side of the plate to make room for his struggles there, as Corey Dickerson (7-for-33) and Lars Nootbaar (4-for-42) also took a nosedive. He’s not a good enough defender to force his way into the late game. And he doesn’t produce productive outs, especially when compared to Burleson, who has only three hits (one of them a bunt-single) but only one strikeout in his first 22 at bats in the big league.

Gorman will not be short of opportunities in the spring, and he is still a key factor in the Cardinals’ future. But for now, today, with the playoffs looming, he’s just a stretch without a fit, and the easiest to squeeze out.

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