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Cardinals option struggling Diaz to Triple-A

Utility infielder Mejia called up; Reyes transferred to 60-day DL
MLB.com @LangoschMLB

PHOENIX -- A day after describing himself as lost at the plate, Aledmys Diaz arrived at Chase Field on Wednesday to learn that not only was he out of the lineup again, but that he was headed elsewhere. Just as they did with Randal Grichuk last month, the Cardinals optioned Diaz to the Minors in an effort to give the second-year shortstop a change of scenery as he works through a variety of issues with his swing and glove.

After a meeting with manager Mike Matheny, Diaz departed the clubhouse Wednesday afternoon and will report next to Triple-A Memphis. Taking his place on the 25-man roster is utility infielder Alex Mejia, who had his contract purchased. The Cardinals cleared a spot for Mejia on the 40-man roster by transferring Alex Reyes to the 60-day disabled list.

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PHOENIX -- A day after describing himself as lost at the plate, Aledmys Diaz arrived at Chase Field on Wednesday to learn that not only was he out of the lineup again, but that he was headed elsewhere. Just as they did with Randal Grichuk last month, the Cardinals optioned Diaz to the Minors in an effort to give the second-year shortstop a change of scenery as he works through a variety of issues with his swing and glove.

After a meeting with manager Mike Matheny, Diaz departed the clubhouse Wednesday afternoon and will report next to Triple-A Memphis. Taking his place on the 25-man roster is utility infielder Alex Mejia, who had his contract purchased. The Cardinals cleared a spot for Mejia on the 40-man roster by transferring Alex Reyes to the 60-day disabled list.

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Mejia was expected to arrive at Chase Field in time for Wednesday's game against the D-backs.

"We forget, this is a young player still," Matheny said of the 26-year-old Diaz. "Last year he got thrust into this league and had a lot of success. He was an All-Star. But this game will catch everybody at some point if you're not able to keep moving forward.

"It's just trying to get him right. It's something that we've done a few times, and it's how do we get somebody to where they need to be without it being in this atmosphere where it's hard to make the adjustments you need to make offensively or defensively or both."

One of the most productive rookie position players in 2016, Diaz has not been able to replicate that success in '17. His OPS+ of 80 is 54 points lower than it was a year ago, and his slugging percentage has dropped from .510 to .396. Diaz has struck out more frequently, walked less often and not shown the same discipline that made him so successful last year.

According to Statcast™, he has swung and missed at 14 percent of the pitches outside the strike zone. That's five percentage points higher than last year. Diaz's .260 batting average would be much lower if not for his ability to beat out 21 infield hits.

Nevertheless, he was stunned to learn that the Cardinals had decided to have him work through those deficiencies elsewhere.

"As a player, you want to be here," Diaz said before departing on Wednesday. "You want to help your team win games and get to the playoffs. I always think that everything in life happens for a reason. I have to take it the right way. I have to think this is for my good and it's going to help me. I didn't think it was going to happen, but it is what it is. I have to go out there and play."

Diaz said he will report to Memphis as quickly as possible so he can get to work.

"I think this is about this team," Diaz said. "It's about this organization. If this is what is best for the team, I have to accept it. I'm a winning player and I want to be here. I want to contribute to my teammates and to this organization. I'm going to go out there and hopefully be back soon."

While his offense has been under the microscope this year, Diaz has had his defensive difficulties as well. His minus-9 Defensive Runs Saved ranked second worst in the Majors among players with at least 250 innings played at short. Matheny said the Cardinals will prioritize work for Diaz at short in Memphis, though getting him exposure at other infield spots hasn't been ruled out.

With Diaz gone, the Cardinals are likely to give rookie Paul DeJong a heavy dose of work at short. Greg Garcia and Mejia, who is considered an above-average defensive shortstop, will also be options.

Mejia, a fourth-round Draft pick in 2012, has fluctuated between Double-A Springfield and Triple-A for the last three seasons. The 26-year-old hit .251/.305/.366 in 63 Double-A games this year before earning a promotion to Memphis, where he batted .263/.333/.289 in 11 games.

Worth noting

• Second baseman Kolten Wong (right triceps strain) has not been cleared to begin a Minor League rehab assignment, Matheny said. Over the weekend, general manager John Mozeliak said he was optimistic that Wong would be playing somewhere by Wednesday. Wong has been on the disabled list since June 15.

• The Cardinals went $156,500 over slot value to sign sixth-round Draft pick Zach Johnson on Wednesday, MLB.com's Jim Callis reported on Wednesday. Jackson, a high school catcher who had committed to the University of Florida, earned a $400,000 signing bonus.

• Catcher Carson Kelly, reliever Ryan Sherriff and starter Luke Weaver have been selected to represent Memphis in the July 12 Triple-A All-Star Game.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter, and Facebook.

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