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Reyes faces live hitters for first time since May

Mikolas looks to use changeup more in 2019, will start spring opener
MLB.com

JUPITER, Fla. -- While a crowd gathered around Field 2 to watch Adam Wainwright face Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter and Paul Goldschmidt in his first session of live batting practice on Tuesday, Alex Reyes, mostly inconspicuously, headed to a mound a few yards away for his most meaningful throws in almost nine months.

Non-roster infielder Rangel Ravelo stepped in as the first batter to face Reyes since May 30, which was the first and last start Reyes made for the Cardinals last season. Reyes struck out Ravelo before continuing on to face Tommy Edman and Max Schrock without any hint of hesitation or limitation.

JUPITER, Fla. -- While a crowd gathered around Field 2 to watch Adam Wainwright face Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter and Paul Goldschmidt in his first session of live batting practice on Tuesday, Alex Reyes, mostly inconspicuously, headed to a mound a few yards away for his most meaningful throws in almost nine months.

Non-roster infielder Rangel Ravelo stepped in as the first batter to face Reyes since May 30, which was the first and last start Reyes made for the Cardinals last season. Reyes struck out Ravelo before continuing on to face Tommy Edman and Max Schrock without any hint of hesitation or limitation.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"It went well," Reyes confirmed afterward.

None of the hitters took a swing against Reyes, but the exercise allowed them to track pitches and offer feedback to Reyes about what they saw. It also represented a step forward for Reyes that came earlier than expected.

Initially scripted to delay his first live batting-practice session until later in camp, Reyes looked strong enough last week in his two bullpen sessions that he received clearance for the next exercise. He is on track to be ready for inclusion in the team's Grapefruit League pitching plans and possibly push himself into consideration for a place on the team's Opening Day roster.

"He is in a good spot," Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said, "And we feel good about progressing Alex."

Tweet from @Cardinals: 👊 big day for @AlexReyes_67 pic.twitter.com/6P21zemvhw

Mikolas embraces a "change"
Likely foreshadowing what's to come at the start of the regular season, Miles Mikolas will throw out the Cardinals' first pitch in Grapefruit League play on Saturday, Shildt announced on Tuesday. Jack Flaherty will follow him, with both pitchers slated to throw about 40 pitches in the team's opener against the Marlins.

As Mikolas preps for his second season with the Cardinals, he has unearthed his changeup, a pitch that he had mostly abandoned in recent years. The right-hander shelved it in Japan when he started to throw a slider and went a full month last year without throwing a single one.

The pitch was resurrected this offseason and has been a focus so far in camp.

"That's something I obviously want to work on, a pitch I want to have," said Mikolas, who threw his changeup 4.4 percent of the time, according to Statcast™. "This is a chance to use it a lot and give a different look."

Mikolas received feedback on the pitch from the three hitters -- Molina, Carpenter and Goldschmidt -- he faced in live BP on Tuesday. He also toyed with "outside-the-box sequences" during the session to see how the hitters reacted.

"It's a consequence-free environment," Mikolas said. "It was good, positive feedback to get early in camp."

Worth noting
• In addition to announcing his pitching plans for Saturday's Grapefruit League opener, Shildt revealed that Michael Wacha and Daniel Ponce de Leon are slated to throw in Sunday's game against Washington.

• The decision not to have Jordan Hicks throw live BP with the other pitchers this week is part of the Cardinals' efforts to regulate his spring workload. Instead of facing hitters on Tuesday, Hicks threw his third bullpen session of spring.

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.

St. Louis Cardinals, Miles Mikolas, Alex Reyes

5 Cards prospects to watch in Spring Training

MLB.com

JUPITER, Fla. -- While much of the Cardinals' attention these next six weeks will be devoted to building their 25-man roster, that won't be the singular focus of spring. This is also the time of year when manager Mike Shildt and members of his coaching staff will enjoy a glimpse of the future.

Among the 64 players the Cardinals plan to have in big league camp are several with little-to-no chance of cracking the team's Opening Day roster. From a practical standpoint, the club needs these extra bodies for coverage early in Grapefruit League play. But the invitations go deeper than that, too.

JUPITER, Fla. -- While much of the Cardinals' attention these next six weeks will be devoted to building their 25-man roster, that won't be the singular focus of spring. This is also the time of year when manager Mike Shildt and members of his coaching staff will enjoy a glimpse of the future.

Among the 64 players the Cardinals plan to have in big league camp are several with little-to-no chance of cracking the team's Opening Day roster. From a practical standpoint, the club needs these extra bodies for coverage early in Grapefruit League play. But the invitations go deeper than that, too.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

This is a showcase opportunity for prospects who can make an impression in front of the Major League staff and absorb lessons alongside those more experienced. It's also a unique opportunity for fans to get a glimpse of players that are earmarked for the Minors.

With that in mind, let's highlight five prospects, who, while unlikely to make the Cardinals' roster out of camp, are worth watching closely this spring because of the impact they could make later this year:

Ryan Helsley (Cardinals' No. 4 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline)
Helsley landed on this list last year, but shoulder fatigue interrupted his progress. Helsley's push toward the Majors stalled after 12 starts. At the time, he was holding hitters to a .197 batting average and .332 slugging percentage while moving back and forth between Double- and Triple-A. Helsley will first have to prove his health, since he has made just one appearance over the last eight months. If he can, the Cardinals are intrigued by Helsley's potential impact as a midseason reinforcement in the 'pen.

Video: From the Farm: Cardinals prospect Ryan Helsley

Andrew Knizner (No. 5)
In some ways, Knizner's path to St. Louis was cleared in December with the Cardinals' trade for Paul Goldschmidt since landing the All-Star first baseman meant sending top catching prospect Carson Kelly to Arizona. Knizner now takes over that spot, with the biggest question being when Yadier Molina will start pulling back on his workload enough to where someone else can get regular catching opportunities. Until that happens, Knizner will continue to develop in the Minors as a ready heir apparent.

Video: Top Prospects: Andrew Knizner, C, Cardinals

Genesis Cabrera (No. 13)
Acquired by the Cardinals in last summer's Tommy Pham deal, Cabrera has already drawn comparisons to Carlos Martinez. Cabrera differs from Martinez in that he's a lefty, but like the current Cardinal, Cabrera already showcases an advanced fastball-slider mix and the ability to bump up his velocity when pitching out of the 'pen. A starter in Tampa Bay's system, Cabrera pitched in relief this winter and generated excitement about how quickly his climb could be if he remained in that role. Over 14 1/3 innings with his Dominican Winter League club, Cabrera struck out 20 while allowing two runs.

Ramon Urias (No. 20)
Urias has experience at all four infield spots, and that defensive versatility could lead him to St. Louis in a reserve role this season. Urias played five years in the Mexican League before the Cardinals signed him last January. By the end of the season, he had risen all the way to Triple-A Memphis. Urias hit .300 across two levels with the Cardinals in 2018 and continued to show the mature offensive approach that initially intrigued the organization.

Lane Thomas (No. 21)
Acquired from the Blue Jays in 2017 for International bonus pool money, Thomas was one of four players added to the 40-man roster in November in order to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft. The organization is deep in outfield talent, but Thomas nudged his way into more prominent prospect status with a breakout season in '18. He hit a career-high 27 home runs in 132 games and then performed well in the Arizona Fall League. Thomas has the speed to play center field and an arm that would allow him to handle either corner spot, too.

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.

St. Louis Cardinals, Genesis Cabrera, Ryan Helsley, Andrew Knizner, Lane Thomas, Ramon Urias

Reyes key to Cards' pitching plans, role TBD

Top prospect's innings will be monitored in return from surgeries
MLB.com

ST. LOUIS -- While the Cardinals consider who might fit where as they fill a rotation and build a bullpen for 2019, they remain open to utilizing Alex Reyes in a number of roles -- or perhaps a hybrid one.

Reyes has logged just four big league innings for the Cardinals since ascending to the Majors in the second half of 2016. And though he'll return next year having had both his right elbow and right shoulder surgically repaired since then, the 24-year-old right-hander remains the top prospect for an organization that still believes in his star potential.

ST. LOUIS -- While the Cardinals consider who might fit where as they fill a rotation and build a bullpen for 2019, they remain open to utilizing Alex Reyes in a number of roles -- or perhaps a hybrid one.

Reyes has logged just four big league innings for the Cardinals since ascending to the Majors in the second half of 2016. And though he'll return next year having had both his right elbow and right shoulder surgically repaired since then, the 24-year-old right-hander remains the top prospect for an organization that still believes in his star potential.

How the Cards will utilize Reyes next season remains fluid but also flexible.

There will be limitations on Reyes' usage given his lack of baseball activity over the past two years. He'll come into camp prepped to be a starter, but under a modified program. The Cardinals will see how Reyes responds to the buildup process before considering him for one of three likely spots.

Reyes can pitch his way back into the rotation. He could fill a need in the bullpen. Or Reyes may start the year in the Minors to serve as ready rotation depth.

"I do think that's going to be one of those wait-and-see [approaches]," president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said at last week's Winter Meetings. "Wait and see how he is throwing, see how he's reacting, see how he feels physically, and then determine if we're going to put our foot on the gas a little more or not."

Deciding how to divvy up Reyes' innings over the course of a full season will also be part of the calculus.

"That's certainly part of what we have to figure out -- how much we can use him and when we want to use those innings and what role they fit best in," general manager Michael Girsch said. "Are we going to have him throw 200 innings next year? No, probably not. But is there a magic number, and do I know what that magic number is as I sit here today? No. It's going to depend on how he feels and where he's at."

If Reyes can return to the form that helped distinguish him as one of baseball's top prospects (No. 36 overall per MLB Pipeline), his return could serve as an X-factor for the club. There has already been discussion within the organization about what the back end of the bullpen could look like with him as a weapon. And Reyes hasn't been ruled out as a potential candidate to close.

This will all, of course, be dictated by health. Reyes has endured a pair of setbacks over the past two years, and there is no certainty as to how he'll respond now coming back from a second surgery.

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.

St. Louis Cardinals, Alex Reyes

Urias' scorching winter continues with 3-homer game

Cards prospect matches 73-year-old Mexican Pacific League record
MLB.com

Back in the Mexican Pacific League this offseason, Ramon Urias is putting up big numbers.

The Cardinals' No. 20 prospect connected on three home runs and finished with seven RBIs on Wednesday as he helped power Caneros de los Mochis over Yaquis de Obregon, 11-6.

Back in the Mexican Pacific League this offseason, Ramon Urias is putting up big numbers.

The Cardinals' No. 20 prospect connected on three home runs and finished with seven RBIs on Wednesday as he helped power Caneros de los Mochis over Yaquis de Obregon, 11-6.

• Winter leagues stats

Urias matched a 73-year-old league record with the three-homer performance. He's now homered four times in his past two games and ranks second in the league with nine home runs.

Tweet from @LMPbeisbol: 1���er acto: grand slam 🚀2���do acto: cuadrangular solitario 🚀3���er acto: jonr��n de dos carreras 🚀��C��mo se llam�� la obra? Ram��n Ur��as, el pelotero n��mero 38 en #LMP que conecta 3 cuadrangulares en un juego ���🔥 #InviernoCaliente @verdesxsiempre pic.twitter.com/x6tdbxL4dO

Urias put Caneros on the board early with a first-inning grand slam to the opposite field and then added a solo shot in his next trip to the plate in the third inning. After reaching via a walk to lead off the fifth, Urias launched a two-run home run to left field in the subsequent frame for his third homer of the game.

Batting for a final time in the eighth inning with a chance to make Mexican League history, Urias hit a pop out to second base as he finished 3-for-4 with four runs scored. The multi-hit performance was Urias' fifth in his past 10 games, during which he's hit .438/.523/.906 with 13 RBIs and 10 runs scored.

Urias has been perhaps the top hitter in the Mexican League this winter. Through 40 games, the 24-year-old infielder is second in all three triple-slash categories, at .358/.474/.591, and sits atop the leaderboard with a 1.065 OPS. His 32 RBIs and 31 walks both rank second, and he's tied for third with 28 runs scored.

The older brother of Padres No. 4 prospect Luis Urias, Ramon originally signed with the Rangers back in December 2010 and spent the next two seasons in the Dominican Summer League.

He was sold the following year to Mexico City in the Mexican League -- after Texas had initially loaned him to the club -- and then spent the next five seasons putting up numbers, both in the summer and winter leagues, before signing with St. Louis in January 2018.

Returning to affiliated ball this past season, Urias produced a .300/.356/.516 line with 13 home runs and 28 doubles over 90 games between Double-A Springfield and Triple-A Memphis. The performance, on top of his previous body of work in the Mexican League, prompted the organization to add Urias to its 40-man roster last week.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.

St. Louis Cardinals

Cards protect top prospects Helsley, Cabrera

Schrock, Fernandez, Ynfante will be available in Rule 5 Draft; Greene, Gonzalez DFA'd
MLB.com

The annual deadline to protect prospects from the Rule 5 Draft came with some significant roster rejiggering for the Cardinals, who backpedaled on two players they chose to protect last year, safeguarded two ascending talents and hinted at the chance of two others playing significant 2018 roles at the big league level.

Tuesday's series of moves left the Cardinals' 40-man roster full. Here is a breakdown of how the roster was reshuffled, and what it means for the club going forward.

The annual deadline to protect prospects from the Rule 5 Draft came with some significant roster rejiggering for the Cardinals, who backpedaled on two players they chose to protect last year, safeguarded two ascending talents and hinted at the chance of two others playing significant 2018 roles at the big league level.

Tuesday's series of moves left the Cardinals' 40-man roster full. Here is a breakdown of how the roster was reshuffled, and what it means for the club going forward.

Who was protected?
RHP Ryan Helsley (No. 4 prospect): The hard-throwing 24-year-old began 2018 ranked above both Jordan Hicks and Dakota Hudson on most prospect lists, but he stalled due to shoulder soreness that sidelined him for much of the summer. With a fastball that touches 98 mph, the right-hander has drawn comparisons to former Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal.

Video: Top Prospects: Ryan Helsley, RHP, Cardinals

LHP Genesis Cabrera (No. 13): The prize of the prospect package Tampa Bay sent to St. Louis in last July's Tommy Pham trade, the 22-year-old has the advanced stuff to profile as a potential middle-of-the-rotation starter. But now he seems like a dark-horse candidate to earn a big league spot next spring as a reliever, particularly for a Cardinals club starving for impact left-handed bullpen help.

OF Lane Thomas (Unranked): Acquired for international bonus pool money from the Blue Jays in 2017, the 23-year-old broke out in his first full season in the Cardinals' system this summer, hitting 27 home runs and stealing 17 bases across Double-A Springfield and Triple-A Memphis. His progression in part made the Cardinals more comfortable dealing away Oscar Mercado, whom they protected from Rule 5 Draft eligibility at this point last winter, then traded to Cleveland in July.

INF Ramon Urias (No. 20): Signed out of the Mexican League, the 24-year-old hit .300/.356/.516 with 13 home runs across two levels last season, and he played a big role in Memphis' Pacific Coast League championship run. He's capable of playing all four infield positions.

Which prospects were left unprotected?
2B Max Schrock (No. 11): Acquired along with Yairo Munoz in the Stephen Piscotty trade, the 24-year-old brings skills in two areas of need for the Cardinals: left-handed hitting and defensive versatility. But his offensive numbers plateaued last season at Memphis in his first crack at Triple-A (.249/.296/.331).

Video: STL@TOR: Schrock drives in Pena with a triple

RHP Junior Fernandez (No. 14): Control issues and inconsistency have muddied the 21-year-old's shine somewhat, but the Cardinals still love the ceiling that comes with his near triple-digit fastball.

OF Wadye Ynfante (No. 23): A converted infielder who can now play all three outfield positions, Ynfante brings plus speed, athleticism and a projectable bat. But at age 21, he has yet to play behind short-season A ball. That inexperience makes him unlikely to be plucked from the Rule 5 Draft and stick in the Majors for a full season.

Who was removed from the roster?
RHP Conner Greene (previously No. 20): The second of two hard-throwing righties (along with Dominic Leone) acquired from Toronto for Randal Grichuk last winter, Greene's progress continued to stall due to control issues. Now 23, he walked 7.1 batters per nine innings in his first crack at Triple-A, then struggled mightily in the Arizona Fall League (14 BB/9 IP).

Video: HOU@STL: Greene fans Federowicz to leave bases loaded

RHP Derian Gonzalez (Unranked): When they protected him from the Rule 5 Draft a year ago, the Cardinals hoped Gonzalez could iron out the command issues that hindered his path to the Majors as a starter. But they persisted enough for the Cardinals to send him to rookie ball as a 23-year-old this summer, and when back in the upper levels, the right-hander struggled in exclusively relief roles.

When a player's contract is designated for assignment -- often abbreviated "DFA" -- that player is immediately removed from his club's 40-man roster. Within seven days of the transaction (had been 10 days under the 2012-16 Collective Bargaining Agreement), the player can either be traded or placed on irrevocable outright waivers.

What does it mean going forward?
The Cardinals' 40-man roster consists of 13 potential relievers after Tuesday's moves, and that's without counting Alex Reyes, who could return from injury to a bullpen role, or Adam Wainwright, whose 2019 role remains undefined. All of them except Cabrera and Helsley appeared in the Majors in '17, so expect tons of competition come spring.

As for this offseason, packing the 40-man roster means any additional moves would require turnover. The most likely way the Cardinals could create space is via trade, as the club continues to gauge market interest in Jose Martinez and possibly others.

The current logjam makes the Cardinals unlikely candidates for any Rule 5 Draft selections themselves, something they haven't done since snagging Matt Bowman from the Mets in 2015.

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.

St. Louis Cardinals, Genesis Cabrera, Junior Fernandez, Derian Gonzalez, Conner Greene, Ryan Helsley, Max Schrock, Lane Thomas, Ramon Urias, Wadye Ynfante

Cardinals weigh which prospects to protect

Deadline approaching to keep eligible players from Rule 5 Draft
MLB.com

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals are prepared to do some more massaging of their 40-man roster next week, as clubs face a Tuesday deadline to protect eligible players from the Rule 5 Draft.

After making a series of roster moves at the start of the month, the Cardinals are operating with two openings on their roster. Whether they will create more by next week will be decided through this annual exercise in risk and projection, which requires the team to weigh the chances of a prospect being chosen by another team with the value of roster flexibility.

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals are prepared to do some more massaging of their 40-man roster next week, as clubs face a Tuesday deadline to protect eligible players from the Rule 5 Draft.

After making a series of roster moves at the start of the month, the Cardinals are operating with two openings on their roster. Whether they will create more by next week will be decided through this annual exercise in risk and projection, which requires the team to weigh the chances of a prospect being chosen by another team with the value of roster flexibility.

This year's Rule 5 Draft will be held on Dec. 13, the final day of MLB's Winter Meetings in Las Vegas. Players who signed at 19 years or older become eligible after their fourth professional season. Those 18 years or younger are eligible after five.

Decision time: Which prospects get 40-man spots?

The cost of plucking a player from another organization is relatively low, but to retain that player, he must stick on the active roster for a full season the following year. Clubs pay $100,000 to select a player in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft. If that player doesn't stay on the 25-man roster for the full season, he must be offered back to his former team for $50,000.

That's how the Cardinals snagged reliever Matt Bowman in 2015. However, they've also felt the sting of this Draft, losing Luis Perdomo and Allen Cordoba to the Padres in consecutive years.

Last year, the Cardinals opted to protect four players. Two of them -- Tyler O'Neill and Austin Gomber -- ended up contributing in the Majors. Of the other two, Oscar Mercado was dealt to Cleveland at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, and Derian Gonzalez finished the season in Double-A.

There are more than 50 players in the organization who would be eligible for next month's Draft if not protected, including these six currently ranked as top 30 prospects by MLB Pipeline:

RHP Ryan Helsley (No. 4): A dark-horse candidate to rise to the Majors last year, he instead spent much of the season sidelined by shoulder fatigue. The 24-year-old features a power fastball and swing-and-miss curve that still have the Cards high on his potential to contribute in a big league bullpen soon.

2B Max Schrock (No. 11): Acquired along with Yairo Munoz when the Cards dealt Stephen Piscotty to Oakland, Schrock, 24, spent last season in Memphis. Though his offensive numbers (.249/.296/.331) were underwhelming, Schrock fits the Cardinals' need for left-handed bats and offers some defensive versatility.

Video: STL@TOR: Schrock drives in Pena with a triple

Genesis Cabrera (No. 13): Tampa Bay sent Cabrera to the Cardinals in July as part of the deal for Tommy Pham. The lefty has started most of his career, but he has been pitching in relief in the Dominican Winter League this offseason. That could be the role that carries the 22-year-old Cabrera to the Majors quickest.

Junior Fernandez (No. 14): He has been an intriguing prospect for years because of a fastball that nearly reaches triple digits. But he has stalled in his advancement due to lack of command and inconsistent secondary pitches. At 21 years old, Fernandez still has time to put it all together.

Ramon Urias (No. 20): The Cardinals signed Urias out of the Mexican League and pushed him as high as Triple-A last season. Urias, 24, profiles as a utility infielder capable of playing both middle infield positions. He has constantly hit for average and shown a mature approach at the plate.

Wadye Ynfante (No. 23): He hasn't advanced beyond short-season A ball yet, which makes it highly unlikely that he'd be at risk of sticking on a big league roster next year. The Cardinals are still intrigued by the plus-speed and athleticism that Ynfante, 21, could bring to the outfield.

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.

St. Louis Cardinals

Pipeline names Cards' Prospects of the Year

MLB.com

ST. LOUIS -- Standing on the Busch Stadium field in mid-August, Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. had just spent several minutes evaluating the job of new manager Mike Shildt when the conversation took an unexpected tangent. He wanted to talk about Elehuris Montero.

The 20-year-old prospect had just become the first Peoria player to win Midwest League MVP honors since Albert Pujols in 2000, and DeWitt was among those most interested and impressed by the third baseman's standout season.

ST. LOUIS -- Standing on the Busch Stadium field in mid-August, Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. had just spent several minutes evaluating the job of new manager Mike Shildt when the conversation took an unexpected tangent. He wanted to talk about Elehuris Montero.

The 20-year-old prospect had just become the first Peoria player to win Midwest League MVP honors since Albert Pujols in 2000, and DeWitt was among those most interested and impressed by the third baseman's standout season.

:: Complete prospect coverage ::

The recognition continues for Montero, who has also been chosen by the MLB Pipeline staff as the Cardinals' Hitting Prospect of the Year. Daniel Poncedeleon, a key contributor at the big-league level in the second half, was named the organization's Pitching Prospect of the Year.

To receive consideration, players must have spent at least half the year in the Minors and appear on the team's Top 30 Prospects list. Montero ranks seventh in the Cardinals' prospect rankings, while Poncedeleon slots in at No. 29.

Montero had not played for a full-season affiliate until this year, when he opened with Class A Peoria. In 103 games with the Chiefs, Montero slashed .322/.381/.529 with a .910 OPS. At the time he was promoted to Class A Advanced Palm Beach on Aug. 7, Montero was leading the Midwest League with 201 total bases, 123 hits, 46 extra-base hits and 28 doubles.

Video: Top Prospects: Elehuris Montero, 3B, Cardinals

Montero's 69 RBIs were the most by a Peoria player since Jacob Wilson drove in 72 in 2013, and Montero was the first teenager in franchise history to ever hit 15 home runs. He finished the season with Class A Advanced Palm Beach, where Montero hit .286/.330/.408.

Left off the Cardinals' Top 30 prospect list entering 2018, Poncedeleon completed an incredible comeback from brain surgery by rising all the way to St. Louis. But before he began his Major League career with seven no-hit innings on July 23, Poncedeleon ranked among the Pacific Coast League leaders with his 2.15 ERA and .198 opponents' batting average in 18 starts.

Video: STL@CIN: Poncedeleon hurls 7 no-hit frames in debut

One year after taking a line drive off his skull, Poncedeleon finished the year with 19 appearances (18 starts) for Memphis. He led all Memphis starters with a 2.24 ERA and posted a 1.24 WHIP while striking out 141 over 129 1/3 innings.

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.

St. Louis Cardinals, Daniel Poncedeleon

Cardinals calling up No. 22 prospect Gallegos

MLB.com

ATLANTA -- While he celebrated Memphis' first Triple-A National Championship on Tuesday night, Giovanny Gallegos learned that, unlike his teammates, his season wasn't over.

Gallegos will join the Cardinals in St. Louis on Friday as the club's final September callup. He'll give the Cardinals an additional right-handed reliever and bring the total number of players on the active roster to 35.

View Full Game Coverage

ATLANTA -- While he celebrated Memphis' first Triple-A National Championship on Tuesday night, Giovanny Gallegos learned that, unlike his teammates, his season wasn't over.

Gallegos will join the Cardinals in St. Louis on Friday as the club's final September callup. He'll give the Cardinals an additional right-handed reliever and bring the total number of players on the active roster to 35.

View Full Game Coverage

The Cardinals acquired Gallegos and lefty Chasen Shreve in the non-waiver Trade Deadline deal that sent Luke Voit to the Yankees. Gallegos joined Memphis and went on to throw 23 2/3 innings, including the final one in a 14-4 win over International League champion Durham (Rays) in the Triple-A National Championship Game. In total, Gallegos allowed three runs on 11 hits and struck out 20 with the Redbirds, who won the Pacific Coast League.

"I haven't seen him pitch, so it's hard to say how he'll fit in," Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. "I think right now we'll evaluate him as we go like we do all the guys. Clearly, he's done well. He has a good arm. All the reports have been favorable and really positive on him. Just put our eyes to him and see what he can do."

Gallegos, the Cardinals' No. 22 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, does have a sprinkling of past Major League experience. He made 16 appearances with the Yankees last season and another four earlier this year. Gallegos has posted a 4.75 ERA over 30 1/3 big league innings.

Carpenter sits
For the second time in five days, Shildt kept leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter out of the starting lineup hoping that at least a partial day off could jump-start the National League MVP Award candidate's bat. Coupled with an off-day on Thursday, Carpenter will have ample time to recharge.

Carpenter, who struck out three times in Tuesday's 8-1 win, is hitless in his past 16 at-bats and 4-for-33 (.121) with 13 strikeouts since Sept. 9.

"Look, if you're going to game plan ... clearly he's going to be pitched tough," Shildt said. "I see a combination of things. A lot of tough pitches and a couple hard outs at people that aren't getting results. Matt's going to be just fine. Matt Carpenter is the least of my worries."

Carpenter has been stuck on 35 homers since the month started, and that represents his longest homerless drought of the year. After entering September with a league-high .966 OPS, Carpenter has watched it drop to .916 while tallying only two extra-base hits this month.

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.

St. Louis Cardinals, Giovanny Gallegos

New acquisitions shuffle Cards' prospects list

Gomber filling in for C-Mart in rotation; Wong, Wainwright progressing in rehab
MLB.com

ST. LOUIS -- While the Cardinals' flurry of Trade Deadline activity was extensively evaluated for the impact it could have on the Major League product, the moves also quietly enhanced the organization's Minor League system.

Five of the players the Cardinals acquired in their four trades moved into the club's Top 30 Prospects list, compiled by MLB Pipeline. Outfielders Justin Williams (No. 9) and Conner Capel (No. 10) rank the highest. Also denting the list are Genesis Cabrera (No. 14), Seth Elledge (No. 22) and Giovanny Gallegos (No. 23).

View Full Game Coverage

ST. LOUIS -- While the Cardinals' flurry of Trade Deadline activity was extensively evaluated for the impact it could have on the Major League product, the moves also quietly enhanced the organization's Minor League system.

Five of the players the Cardinals acquired in their four trades moved into the club's Top 30 Prospects list, compiled by MLB Pipeline. Outfielders Justin Williams (No. 9) and Conner Capel (No. 10) rank the highest. Also denting the list are Genesis Cabrera (No. 14), Seth Elledge (No. 22) and Giovanny Gallegos (No. 23).

View Full Game Coverage

The Cardinals now have six outfielders among their top 18 prospects. Tyler O'Neill, the club's No. 2 prospect, should graduate from the list soon.

MLB Pipleline also recently released its refreshed midseason Top 100 rankings, and two Cardinals -- Alex Reyes (No. 34) and O'Neill (48) -- made that cut.

Rotation plans

Used primarily in relief by the Cardinals this season, Austin Gomber will now get an extended look as a starter as he slides into the club's open rotation spot. The Cards needed to add another starter to the mix after Carlos Martinez went on the disabled list, and using Gomber will give the team a left-handed look in an otherwise all-righty rotation. He'll start Saturday in Pittsburgh.

Video: STL@CIN: Gomber takes no-hitter into the 7th inning

"Pitching is pitching, but obviously I'm definitely excited to be in the rotation, definitely excited about the opportunity," Gomber said. "It kind of [stinks], because obviously we're a better team when Carlos is healthy. Nobody wants to see him get hurt, but I'm just going to try and do what I can do to replace him to the best of my ability."

Gomber, who has appeared in relief 17 times this year, made his first big league start on July 24 and carried a no-hitter through 6 1/3 innings. He finished with two runs allowed on a pair of hits. Gomber has a 3.22 ERA and used a 14-pitch appearance out of the 'pen on Wednesday as a tune-up for his outing on Saturday.

Medical report

Second baseman Kolten Wong joined Class A Peoria for a one-day rehab stint on Thursday. Wong is scripted to play seven innings before flying to Pittsburgh to join the Cardinals. Wong, who has been sidelined by left knee inflammation since July 22, could be activated from the DL as early as Friday.

Video: STL@CHC: Wong makes diving stop, glove flips for out

Adam Wainwright (right elbow inflammation) and Martinez (right shoulder strain) plan to join the club midway through its upcoming road trip as they progress through their respective rehab programs. Wainwright through a high-intensity bullpen session on Wednesday, and he plans to do so again over the weekend. He will then check in with the Major League staff and medical team before beginning a Minor League rehab assignment.

Dominic Leone (upper arm nerve irritation) began a rehab assignment on Wednesday with a scoreless inning for Triple-A Memphis. He struck out two.

Worth noting

• The Cardinals will get a close-up look at one of the newest impact players in the National League Central on Friday, when starter Chris Archer makes his debut for the Pirates. St. Louis will counter with John Gant.

• Memphis outfielder Adolis Garcia extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a two-homer night on Wednesday. Garcia has hit seven home runs in the past six games.

• The Cardinals announced the additions of four new Theme Nights to their season schedule. Those include BBQ Night (Aug. 13), Fredbird's Birthday Party (Sept. 2), College Night III (Sept. 24) and Memphis Redbirds Night (Sept. 26).

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.

St. Louis Cardinals, Seth Elledge, Giovanny Gallegos, Justin Williams

Cards trade Pham to Rays for 3 prospects

St. Louis nets 2 additional Minor Leaguers from Indians for outfielder Mercado
MLB.com

ST. LOUIS -- Seeking to walk that tricky tightrope of creating big league opportunities for young players while still trying to remain in the playoff hunt, the Cardinals capped a five-day flurry of transactions by executing two more trades just ahead of Tuesday's 3 p.m. CT non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Those included sending starting center fielder Tommy Pham, along with $500,000 in international bonus pool money, to the Rays in exchange for Minor Leaguers Justin Williams, Genesis Cabrera and Roel Ramirez. The Cardinals also swapped Minor League outfielder Oscar Mercado to the Indians for low-level outfielders Conner Capel and Jhon Torres.

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ST. LOUIS -- Seeking to walk that tricky tightrope of creating big league opportunities for young players while still trying to remain in the playoff hunt, the Cardinals capped a five-day flurry of transactions by executing two more trades just ahead of Tuesday's 3 p.m. CT non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Those included sending starting center fielder Tommy Pham, along with $500,000 in international bonus pool money, to the Rays in exchange for Minor Leaguers Justin Williams, Genesis Cabrera and Roel Ramirez. The Cardinals also swapped Minor League outfielder Oscar Mercado to the Indians for low-level outfielders Conner Capel and Jhon Torres.

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But despite a week in which the Cardinals have purged excess from their Major League roster, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak cautioned against characterizing the club as a Deadline seller. Rather than package prospects for proven big league talent as most contending clubs do at this point in the season, the Cardinals sought to open a path for those prospects to be the help they need to make a push in the Wild Card race.

The Cardinals began the day four games back in those standings. Five teams sit ahead of them.

"I feel like what we were trying to do was put ourselves in position to get a peek at the future," Mozeliak explained. "They're probably not the most exciting moves to all the people out there watching, but for us, we did feel like we accomplished some things. The way it was going wasn't working. Trying to do something different was our approach."

Video: COL@STL: Mozeliak talks about trading Pham to Rays

Subtracting Pham from the mix opens up an opportunity for rookie outfielders Harrison Bader and Tyler O'Neill to share playing time in center. O'Neill, who led Triple-A Memphis with 26 homers and 61 RBIs in 61 games, was recalled on Tuesday and plugged into the starting lineup.

Playing time, Mozeliak said, is likely to be split fairly evenly between the two.

The chance to see what both can do with extended opportunities mirrors the organization's approach with the bullpen. Since the All-Star break, the Cardinals have added four pitchers from Triple-A (Austin Gomber, Daniel Poncedeleon, Dakota Hudson and Tyler Webb) and another (Chasen Shreve) acquired via trade.

In essence, the Cardinals have turned the present over to their future. And the organization is gambling that the chance to win now has improved through that approach.

"We're not trying some unique experiment," Mozeliak said. "We're taking guys who we feel are ready to perform up here. Now, their roles might be a little different than what they were down in Memphis. But they were having a lot of success down there, and now we're hoping to have a lot of that success up here.

"I think when you look back at our history of how we have utilized our Minor League system, that tends to be our more successful recipe. And so when we look at where these guys were, we felt like it was better to give them a chance, instead of just trying to flip them for something else."

The belief that the Cardinals can still compete for a postseason berth is also why they did not further deplete their Major League roster. Closer Bud Norris and first baseman/outfielder Jose Martinez were among the players the Cardinals shopped to other teams before deciding to hang onto both. The Cardinals were not enticed by the potential returns they were offered.

"Just having short-term gratification was not our goal," Mozeliak said. "Do I come here telling you we hit a home run over the last 24 hours? No. But we still were able to successfully go down the path we felt we needed to. It was an incremental strategy that we feel, in the end, will have long-term benefits."

A breakout star a year ago, Pham found out his 12-year tenure with the organization had ended when he woke up to a phone call from Mozeliak. Returning as the club's starting center fielder this year, Pham was among the Majors' most productive players in April, but he had endured a drastic drop in production beginning with an 0-for-31 stretch during the latter part of June.

Pham heads to the Rays with a .248/.331/.399 slash line and .730 OPS.

In dealing the 30-year-old Pham, the Cardinals lost a player over whom they carried three more years of control. Pham had been interested in pursuing a long-term contract with the club over the offseason, but he did not think the Cardinals' two-year, $4 million offer was strong enough.

Though all three of the Cardinals' Opening Day outfielders have underperformed this season, Pham was the one best positioned to be dealt. Dexter Fowler is under contract for another three seasons and has a no-trade clause. Marcell Ozuna, whom the Cardinals gave up several prospects to acquire, will be arbitration-eligible again next year.

"When you look at where we were, I think staying status quo was not getting it done," Mozeliak said. "Obviously, trying to create opportunity also for O'Neill and Bader was something we thought we needed to do. It had to do with creating opportunity for others. And look, performance matters."

Video: Top Prospects: Justin Williams, OF, Rays

An organization already overrun by outfield talent did add more to the mix through Tuesday's trades. But the Cardinals like that Williams and Capel hit from the left side, and they were willing to part with Mercado in exchange for outfielders who will slot in lower in the farm system.

Capel, 21, will be assigned to Class A Advanced Palm Beach. Torres, 18, is expected to join the Cardinals' Gulf Coast League affiliate.

Williams (No. 9) and Cabrera (No. 14) immediately slide into the Cardinals' Top 30 prospect rankings, according to MLB Pipeline. Williams, an outfielder, had appeared in one game for the Rays.

Mozeliak described Cabrera as "an electric arm" who adds to the organization's left-handed pitching depth. Ramirez, 23, will pitch in relief for Double-A Springfield. 

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.

St. Louis Cardinals, Tommy Pham, Justin Williams

Rays get Pham from Cardinals

3 prospects sent to St. Louis for outfielder, international bonus pool money
MLB.com

ST. PETERSBURG -- Consistent with how the Rays do business, they made a trade for Cardinals outfielder Tommy Pham and international bonus pool money in exchange for three Minor League prospects: outfielder Justin Williams, the Rays' No. 14 prospect, left-hander Genesis Cabrera (No. 25) and right-hander Roel Ramirez.

While Chris Archer had been the focus of trade rumors involving the Rays -- and was dealt to the Pirates before Major League Baseball's 4 p.m. ET Deadline -- the Pham deal seemingly came out of nowhere.

ST. PETERSBURG -- Consistent with how the Rays do business, they made a trade for Cardinals outfielder Tommy Pham and international bonus pool money in exchange for three Minor League prospects: outfielder Justin Williams, the Rays' No. 14 prospect, left-hander Genesis Cabrera (No. 25) and right-hander Roel Ramirez.

While Chris Archer had been the focus of trade rumors involving the Rays -- and was dealt to the Pirates before Major League Baseball's 4 p.m. ET Deadline -- the Pham deal seemingly came out of nowhere.

Video: COL@STL: Mozeliak talks about trading Pham to Rays

"I woke up to [Cards president John Mozeliak] calling me early this morning with the news, so I was really shocked," Pham told MLB Network Radio. "That's the first thing, you know, you wake up to your boss calling you that you've gotten traded, it's shocking."

Pham is hitting .248 with 14 home runs and 41 RBIs.

"It hurts," he said. "More specifically, for me, I've been underperforming from my expectations, and I feel like if I had done my job better, [the Cards] wouldn't be so far down in the standings."

A late bloomer, Pham emerged with both his bat and his glove to break into St. Louis' lineup last season, hitting .306 and slugging .520 with 23 homers. Pham, 30, is making just $570,000 this season and is under team control through 2021. He will become eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter. In March, details emerged that Pham rejected the Cardinals' offer of a two-year, $4 million contract extension.

Tweet from @snellzilla4: Let���s go!!!! Welcome to the family!! @TphamLV

Williams, 22, who came to the Rays in the November 2014 trade that sent Jeremy Hellickson to the D-backs, played in one game for the Rays this season. He was hitting .258 with eight home runs and 46 RBIs for Triple-A Durham.

Cabrera, 21, was 7-6 with a 4.12 ERA in 21 games at Double-A Montgomery while Ramirez, 23, was 3-1 with a 2.53 ERA in 42 games for Montgomery and Class A Advanced Charlotte.

With Pham out of the mix, the Cardinals have various directions they can now turn to plug the opening in their outfield. Harrison Bader, who is hitting .265/.338/.400 over 83 games, is the best defensive outfielder on the team's 25-man roster. This could also make room for outfielder Tyler O'Neill, who has 26 homers and 61 RBIs in 61 games with Triple-A Memphis. He, too, can play center.

Williams will be part of the outfield mix, as well, though the Cardinals plan to send him to Memphis for now. A second-round Draft pick in 2013, Williams appeared in 94 games for Tampa Bay's Triple-A affiliate this season. He hit .258/.313/.376 as the club's everyday right fielder.

Tampa Bay entered Tuesday 21 games out of the American League East lead and 10 games back of the league's second Wild Card spot, so this would appear to be a move directed more toward the club's future beyond 2018.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Petersburg.

St. Louis Cardinals, Tampa Bay Rays, Tommy Pham

Cards land 2 relievers from Yanks for Voit, cash

MLB.com

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals' roster churn continued Saturday night, as they dealt first baseman Luke Voit to the Yankees for a pair of relievers -- Giovanny Gallegos and Chasen Shreve. St. Louis also sent the Yankees $1 million in international bonus pool money to complete the deal, a source told MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez.

Shreve will join the Cardinals on Monday, where he will become the latest addition in the team's revamped bullpen. Since Friday, the Cardinals have added four new relievers to the mix. Gallegos, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 26 prospect in New York's farm system, has been assigned to Triple-A Memphis.

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals' roster churn continued Saturday night, as they dealt first baseman Luke Voit to the Yankees for a pair of relievers -- Giovanny Gallegos and Chasen Shreve. St. Louis also sent the Yankees $1 million in international bonus pool money to complete the deal, a source told MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez.

Shreve will join the Cardinals on Monday, where he will become the latest addition in the team's revamped bullpen. Since Friday, the Cardinals have added four new relievers to the mix. Gallegos, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 26 prospect in New York's farm system, has been assigned to Triple-A Memphis.

General manager Michael Girsch confirmed the Cardinals and Yankees had been discussing possible trade scenarios for weeks, with the Yankees particularly interested in acquiring international cap space. The Cardinals had excess money to deal and were motivated to sort through their surplus of right-handed bats.

Voit, who appeared in eight games for the Cardinals this season, had been stuck in that logjam.

Shreve, 28, has made 195 career appearances with the Braves and Yankees since debuting in 2014. He had a 1.50 WHIP and 4.26 ERA with 46 strikeouts and 18 walks in 38 innings this season. His biggest issue has been keeping the ball in the park -- Shreve allowed eight homers this season and has a career rate of 1.6 surrendered over nine innings.

The Cardinals believe several factors -- including pitching in Yankee Stadium -- have inflated that total. Twenty-two of the 34 home runs Shreve allowed came in that ballpark.

"We also just in general know that Major League pitchers who strike out a third of the players they face don't have a quarter of all the balls hit to the outfield go over the wall," Girsch said. "That's just not sustainable in any meaningful way in the big leagues, so our bet is that it will regress to something more in line with what's normal."

Shreve will be arbitration-eligible this winter, meaning he'll be under team control for another three seasons. That was attractive to the Cardinals, even though they're taking on a lefty reliever who has no options remaining.

The Cardinals have been looking to add left-handed depth for a while now after not getting reliable relief from Brett Cecil or Tyler Lyons this season. A season-ending injury to Ryan Sherriff further depleted the options.

Gallegos, 26, debuted with the Yankees last season and had appeared in four games for New York this season. Combined, he has allowed 17 runs (16 earned) in 30 1/3 big league innings. Gallegos made 17 Triple-A appearances this season and posted a 3.90 ERA while striking out 41 in 27 2/3 innings.

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.

St. Louis Cardinals, Chasen Shreve

Martinez on track for Monday return from DL

Poncedeleon optioned after great debut; Bader recognized with award
MLB.com

CINCINNATI -- When a mild oblique strain sidelined Carlos Martinez last weekend in Chicago, the Cardinals were hopeful the righty's disabled list stint would be a short one. That hope inched closer to reality on Tuesday, when Martinez tested the injury in a flat-ground session on the outfield grass at Great American Ball Park.

The next hurdle for Martinez will be a bullpen session scheduled for Friday, and if he completes that without issue, he could return to the Cards rotation on his first day of eligibility, on Monday against the Rockies. Doing so would mean Martinez avoids a rehab start.

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CINCINNATI -- When a mild oblique strain sidelined Carlos Martinez last weekend in Chicago, the Cardinals were hopeful the righty's disabled list stint would be a short one. That hope inched closer to reality on Tuesday, when Martinez tested the injury in a flat-ground session on the outfield grass at Great American Ball Park.

The next hurdle for Martinez will be a bullpen session scheduled for Friday, and if he completes that without issue, he could return to the Cards rotation on his first day of eligibility, on Monday against the Rockies. Doing so would mean Martinez avoids a rehab start.

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Cardinals interim manager Mike Shildt called the plan "tentative" on Tuesday.

Video: CIN@STL: Martinez retires Barnhart to escape a jam

Martinez originally tweaked his oblique last Thursday in Chicago, lunging for a batted ball in the fourth inning of a 9-6 loss to the Cubs. The outing was the latest in an uneven year for Martinez, who has struggled to regain his early-season form after missing three weeks to a strained lat. Martinez was 3-2 with a 1.62 ERA before the first injury, but he is 3-4 with a 5.32 ERA in nine starts since.

Austin Gomber was recalled from Triple-A Memphis to fill Martinez's rotation spot Tuesday. He pitched 6 1/3 no-hit innings before giving up two runs in a 4-2 win over the Reds.

Without Martinez available, the Cardinals will start Luke Weaver, Miles Mikolas and John Gant in this weekend's rematch against the Cubs at Busch Stadium.

Poncedeleon optioned after stellar debut
The realities of roster construction took precedence over Daniel Poncedeleon's dazzling Monday night Major League debut, as the Cardinals optioned the right-hander to Triple-A Memphis on Tuesday.

The move was "pretty much set" before Tuesday's 2-1 loss to the Reds, Shildt said. 

Poncedeleon became the first Cards rookie nearly six decades to take a no-hitter into the seventh in his MLB debut. Poncedeleon completed seven no-hit innings before being removed after 116 pitches in a performance that capped a 14-month recovery from emergency brain surgery and made national headlines. Poncedeleon remained with the team Tuesday to receive treatment and rehash his journey on a mini-national tour, which included a spot on CNN's "New Day" morning program.

The television appearance came after he was informed he'd be heading back to Memphis.

"He was respectful but not blissful," Shildt said. "Ponce is a true pro. That's a tough turnaround. Seven innings of no-hit baseball. 'Nice job, congratulations. And by the way, tomorrow you're going back down to Memphis.'

"Everybody gets that, including Ponce, but that's some tough love right there."

The reality is Poncedeleon is likely to help the Cards again at some point later in the year, perhaps out of the bullpen.

"I think he has the flexibility to do so based on our roster, and the confidence we have in him," Shildt said.

Video: STL@CIN: Poncedeleon hurls 7 no-hit frames in debut

The latter can also be said of Gomber, who emerged as St. Louis' most-trusted left-handed reliever earlier this season. The Cardinals are making "reorganizing" their struggling 'pen a priority headed into the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, a source told MLB.com on Tuesday. That could mean Gomber and Poncedeleon assuming more prominent roles, likely in place of Greg Holland and/or Brett Cecil, who could be moved before the Deadline.

St. Louis' relief corps has allowed 21 runs in six games since the All-Star break, a 2-4 stretch that has pinned the Cardinals at .500 (50-50) through 100 games. They sit in fourth place in the National League Central with a week until the Deadline.

But their short-term priority remains augmenting a rotation without stalwarts Martinez and Michael Wacha. Gomber is technically taking Martinez's spot, and he could earn another start there if Martinez is unable to return when eligible next week.

Bader earns honor
The Major League Baseball Player Alumni Association revealed the 30 preliminary winners of the 2018 Heart and Hustle Award on Tuesday, with one player from each team is chosen based on their passion, desire and work ethic demonstrated both on and off the field. Earning the Cardinals' recognition was right fielder Harrison Bader, who will be honored at an upcoming game at Busch Stadium.

An overall winner will then be selected through a combination of fan, alumni and player voting later in the season. The 2018 winner will be announced on Nov. 8. This remains the only award in Major League Baseball that is voted on by former players. The last player to win the overall vote as a member of the Cardinals was Albert Pujols in 2009.

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.

St. Louis Cardinals, Austin Gomber, Daniel Poncedeleon

Prospects Knizner, Ortiz added to Futures Game

MLB.com

Top prospects Andrew Knizner of the Cardinals and Luis Ortiz of the Brewers have been named replacements for the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game on Sunday at Nationals Park in Washington.

Knizner will take the spot of A's catcher Sean Murphy, who was placed on the disabled list on Monday. The right-hander Ortiz will fill in for righty Forrest Whitley of the Astros, who left his start on Monday with an injury.

Top prospects Andrew Knizner of the Cardinals and Luis Ortiz of the Brewers have been named replacements for the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game on Sunday at Nationals Park in Washington.

Knizner will take the spot of A's catcher Sean Murphy, who was placed on the disabled list on Monday. The right-hander Ortiz will fill in for righty Forrest Whitley of the Astros, who left his start on Monday with an injury.

SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game rosters

Knizner, 23, is ranked the Cards' No. 5 prospect, and is hitting .318/.386/.430 between stints at Double-A Springfield and Triple-A Memphis. Power may be the last raw tool that eludes him as he continues his ascent toward the Majors; he has just three homers in 223 at-bats this year. Knizner spent three weeks with Memphis earlier this season -- the first time he's reached that level -- when Carson Kelly was called up to St. Louis to fill in while Yadier Molina recovered from emergency surgery following a pelvic injury. In that stretch, Knizer impressed with a .333/.400/.444 line.

:: 2018 Futures Game coverage ::

Taken with what was touted as a sneaky solid pick in the seventh round in 2016 by St. Louis, Knizner had his true break out during the Arizona Fall League last season.

Ortiz, 22, is Milwaukee's No. 4 prospect, and remains at Double-A Biloxi as he works toward a season in full health after battling forearm and hamstring issues early in his young career. He's on his way to exceeding the career-high 94 1/3 innings this year, now at 49 frames with a career-high 4.41 ERA across 12 outings. He also has 51 strikeouts and a 1.235 WHIP.

Ortiz, who was drafted by the Rangers with the 30th overall pick in 2014 and came over in the Jonathan Lucroy trade with Texas in 2016, got his first glimpse of Spring Training with the big league club this year. Scouting reports indicate that if Ortiz can remain healthy and condition his body to fully exploit his 6-foot-3 frame, he has the potential to be a No. 3 starter in a big league rotation.

Daniel Kramer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @DKramer_.

Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, Andrew Knizner, Luis Ortiz

Cards continue pipeline to Cuba, to ink Nunez

MLB.com

The Cardinals have been active on the Cuban market in recent years and are once again tapping into talent from the island to bolster their Minor League system.

Cardinals assistant general manager Moises Rodriguez confirmed Monday that the club agreed to a deal with third baseman Malcom Nunez of Cuba, as well as Dominican right-hander Victor Villanueva, on the first day of the new international signing period.

The Cardinals have been active on the Cuban market in recent years and are once again tapping into talent from the island to bolster their Minor League system.

Cardinals assistant general manager Moises Rodriguez confirmed Monday that the club agreed to a deal with third baseman Malcom Nunez of Cuba, as well as Dominican right-hander Victor Villanueva, on the first day of the new international signing period.

:: 2018 International Signing Period ::

According to MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez, Nunez received a $300,000 bonus, which was the maximum that the Cardinals could offer. They, like the A's, Astros, Braves, Nationals, Padres, Reds and White Sox, are serving a penalty for previously exceeding their bonus pool and cannot sign any individual player for more than $300,000 during the current period. Villanueva agreed to a bonus well below that max amount.

Standing at 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, Nunez, 17, has a strong body and is physically mature. He has exhibited strength in his swing and displays projectable hitting ability and power. Overall, he's known for his plate discipline and offensive instincts.

On defense, Nunez has an above-average arm, though he's not exceptionally agile. The Cardinals believe he has a shot at sticking at third base for the long term.

The Cardinals first started scouting Nunez when he was a 14 year old playing in Cuba's 15U Latin American Championship. The following year, Nunez starred in the 15U World Cup, leading the tournament in batting average (.667), on-base percentage (.750) and stolen bases (seven).

"We are pleased to sign a hitter of Malcom's caliber and viewed his bat among the best available," said Rodriguez, who served as the Cardinals' director of international operations before being promoted last September. "He has a track record of performing at a high level in both Cuban youth leagues and international competition, where he stood out among his peers. We thought he'd be a long shot given our signing limitations, but [director of international operations] Luis Morales, [Dominican Republic scouting supervisor] Angel Ovalles and local scouts did an excellent job of getting to know the player and putting us in position to sign him."

Nunez, who became eligible to sign during the 2017-2018 period, has been training in the Dominican Republic, which gave the Cardinals more opportunities to evaluate him and sell Nunez on their organization.

Both Nunez and Villanueva have already been assigned to the Cardinals' Dominican Summer League team. The Cardinals expect to finalize a number of additional international signings within the next two weeks.

The list of Cuban players to sign with the Cardinals during the last few years includes infielder Aledmys Diaz, who signed in 2014, outfielder Randy Arozarena, center fielder Jonatan Machado and right-handed pitcher Johan Oviedo, who all signed in 2016. Right-handed pitcher Hector Mendoza and outfielder Jose Adolis Garcia signed with the club last year.

According to the rules established by the Collective Bargaining Agreement, clubs that received a Competitive Balance Pick in Round B of the MLB Draft received a pool of $6,025,400, while clubs like the Cardinals that received a Competitive Balance Pick in Round A of the Draft received a pool of $5,504,500. However, the Cardinals lost $500,000 for their signing of Greg Holland to drop their available pool to $5,004,500.

The club is allowed to trade as much of their international pool money as it would like but can only acquire 75 percent of a team's initial pool amount. Additionally, signing bonuses of $10,000 or less do not count toward the club's bonus pool, and foreign professional players who are at least 25 and have played in a foreign league for at least six seasons are also exempt.

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.

Jesse Sanchez, who has been writing for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.

St. Louis Cardinals