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For now, Cards stick with Carpenter at leadoff

@LangoschMLB
May 14, 2019

ATLANTA -- As Matt Carpenter reaches mid-May once again straining to generate consistent offensive production, the Cardinals continue to look at past results and current indicators as reasons to stick with the status quo. Manager Mike Shildt confirmed that while he is “open-minded” to a variety of lineup constructions, he

ATLANTA -- As Matt Carpenter reaches mid-May once again straining to generate consistent offensive production, the Cardinals continue to look at past results and current indicators as reasons to stick with the status quo.

Manager Mike Shildt confirmed that while he is “open-minded” to a variety of lineup constructions, he is “not at the moment” looking to move Carpenter out of the leadoff spot.

“He’s got the right approach for it,” Shildt continued. “He’s an All-Star-caliber player, an MVP-caliber player. He understands what that looks like. We all want to see the results, including him, [be] more consistent.”

Carpenter begins this road trip slashing .201/.318/.336. That on-base percentage is particularly glaring for a player who has a career mark of .375. He’s never finished a season with an OBP below .365.

But the Cardinals liked the hard contact Carpenter was making during the team’s recent visit to Chicago and look at his 2-for-20 stretch since then as littered with bad luck. Dig a layer deeper, though, and the numbers aren’t as promising as they were a year ago when Carpenter emerged from an even worse season start to put together a torrid four-month stretch.

His barrel rate is down from 13.7 percent to 8.3 percent, and Carpenter has endured a drop in hard-hit percentage from 44.7 to 34.7. He has an xOBA of .295 and xSLG of .403. Carpenter’s strikeout rate is a tick up and walk rate a little down, though the difference in both is minimal.

If the Cardinals were to make a change, even if temporary, they have another leadoff candidate in Dexter Fowler. Not only does Fowler have a wealth of experience hitting in that spot, but he has posted a .405 OBP through 34 games.

Rehab roundup
Alex Reyes threw about 70 pitches in an extended spring training appearance on Monday, according to general manager Michael Girsch, and is scheduled to have his left pinkie finger reexamined around the end of the week to see if he can resume using his glove hand in baseball activities.

Once Reyes gets that clearance, the Cardinals will likely leave Reyes in Florida, where he can ease back into playing defense in a controlled setting or Class A Advanced Palm Beach game.

Carlos Martinez (right shoulder cuff strain) is scheduled to throw about 30 pitches in a rehab appearance with Double-A Springfield on Wednesday. The outing will be the fifth on this rehab assignment -- and, also, potentially his last. If he responds well to the test, Martinez could be activated from the 10-day injured list during the Cardinals’ upcoming series in Texas.

Pair of prospects promoted to Peoria
The Cardinals’ Class A affiliate in Peoria, Ill., now boasts three of the organization’s top five prospects after outfielder Jhon Torres (No. 4) and third baseman Malcom Nunez (No. 5) were added to the Chiefs’ roster over the weekend. They join a club that already features top prospect Nolan Gorman.

Though Nunez and Gorman are developing as third basemen, Gorman will get the bulk of the playing time at the position for now, Girsch explained. The plan is for Gorman to start in the field five or six times a week, with Nunez slotting in as a designated hitter on those days. When Gorman gets a break, Nunez will handle the hot corner.

“We wanted to get Nunez out of [extended spring training in] Jupiter, [Fla.], and into a competitive environment,” Girsch said. “As much as he needs reps at third base, he needs reps against high-quality pitching after being in the [Dominican Summer League] all last year. We’ll see how it goes.”

The Cardinals are likely to separate the two third basemen later this season, whether that be through promoting Gorman or sending Nunez to a short-season club once those begin play in June.

Gorman, who turned 19 years old four days ago, has slashed .256/.358/.538 with eight homers, seven doubles and 24 RBIs through 33 games. Nunez, 18, was a standout performer in the DSL last year, where he slashed .415/.497/.774 over 44 games.

Torres, 19, had also been participating in extended spring training until receiving this new assignment. Torres posted a 1.176 OPS with the Gulf Coast League Cardinals after joining the organization via trade last summer.

Minor matters
• Since being optioned back to Triple-A Memphis, outfielder Tyler O’Neill has tallied six home runs and driven in 12 over 48 plate appearances.

• Right-hander Williams Perez was named the Texas League Pitcher of the Week after allowing one run over 13 innings for Springfield last week. Perez scattered three hits, walked seven and struck out 11.

• Catcher Julio Rodriguez earned Offensive Player of the Week honors in the Florida State League after finishing the week 8-for-15 with two doubles, two homers and four RBIs.

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.