ST. LOUIS -- Welcome to my first Inbox. For those who don’t know, I took over the Cardinals beat when Jenifer Langosch moved to a management role with MLB.com. It’s been great getting to know this city, team and fan base so far, and I’m looking forward to the rest
ST. LOUIS -- Welcome to my first Inbox. For those who don’t know, I took over the Cardinals beat when Jenifer Langosch moved to a management role with MLB.com. It’s been great getting to know this city, team and fan base so far, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.
Now, let’s get to your questions.
Guessing the front office won’t make any moves for offense in July hoping that players live up to expectations. Who would be pitchers on the Cards' shopping list?
-- Tom, San Ramon, Calif.
The Cardinals don’t expect to add to their offense, because, with the approach and at-bats that they’ve seen, they believe the hitters will begin to produce.
As far as what St. Louis will do, keep in mind that July 31 is still more than a month away. There are many scenarios that could manifest leading up to the Deadline, and the Cards’ approach will hinge on what the club does over the next month.
The Cardinals enter July playing a few mediocre teams: the Padres, Mariners, Giants and D-backs, but then face divisional opponents, with the Pirates, Reds, Bucs again and Cubs, as well as a three-game series against the Astros.
The point is, the Cards could be buyers. They are sitting two games back from first place and a half-game back from second in the National League Central.
As far as an immediate need, a starting pitcher from the outside would certainly improve this team and potentially give the Cardinals a jump, keeping pace with or catching the Cubs and Brewers. They wanted to give that thought some time, seeing if Alex Reyes could get back to the Major Leagues, but Reyes’ removal from his start Sunday casts questions about his future.
If the Cards are in the race come the end of July, it would make sense to add an impact arm, though they haven’t narrowed their shopping list yet.
What is the plan with Daniel Ponce De Leon? Will he be back up with the big-league club following the homestand?
Ponce de Leon will be back, it’s just a matter of when. After his start last week, he needed at least four days' rest anyway, so it didn’t make sense for the Cardinals to keep him in St. Louis. But manager Mike Shildt spoke very highly of Ponce De Leon after that start against the Marlins.
Before Friday, it would've seemed that Ponce de Leon would be back to start after the homestand, but with the way Michael Wacha pitched, that doesn’t seem likely. Wacha solidified his spot in the rotation, and the St. Louis intends to use the three off-days between now and the All-Star break to rearrange the rotation and give its starters some added rest.
Ponce de Leon is the Cardinals' No. 1 option to be a spot starter -- he could be used to give Jack Flaherty or Dakota Hudson rest after the All-Star break -- and that’s just the role he’s in right now. The upcoming calendar didn’t work for Ponce de Leon, but it’s very clear that the Cards want him with the club at some point, in some capacity.
After Jordan Hicks was diagnosed on Monday with a torn right UCL, and the Cardinals needing to rearrange their bullpen for the time being, Ponce de Leon could perhaps return to the Major League club as a long-inning reliever. Ryan Helsley (right shoulder impingement) could fill that role, too, when he is activated from the injured list, but there’s no plan yet on when that might be.
Why do Kolten Wong and Harrison Bader play every day? They are 3-for-their-last-40. Tommy Edman and Yairo Muñoz look like clear upgrades.
-- Ty, St. Louis
Wong (13-for-47 in his past 15 games) isn’t slumping nearly as bad as Bader (5-for-43 in his past 15 games), and Wong has had some key hits over his past few games. But it’s their defense that earns them playing time.
Take in point Wong’s pass-catch to Paul DeJong to begin a double play against the Angels on Sunday. His defense brings an extra level that the Cardinals need -- and so does Bader's in center field. One example: Bader’s catch Wednesday in the top of the 11th inning against the Marlins was a five-star catch with a 25 percent catch probability, according to Statcast, and it saved a hit and potential rally.
Edman and Muñoz are performing very well in their respective roles right now, as pinch-hitters and substitutes when needed. They’ve embraced those roles, and both provided sparks off the bench, especially in Sunday's loss to the Angels, when their pinch-hits accounted for two of the Cards’ five before the ninth inning.
But Shildt is a firm believer in everyday starters and defending the lineup when he sees quality at-bats happening, which he said he does.
Here’s what Shildt said in response to a question asked Sunday about finding time for Edman and Muñoz: “I think it’s important to have guys go out there and be your everyday guys. We've got really good players that are everyday players. We give them [days off] appropriately, give other guys opportunities too. Good teams have depth.”
Anne Rogers covers the Cardinals for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @anne__rogers and on Facebook.