Cards put Pham on DL, call up Diaz

April 4th, 2016

PITTSBURGH -- When the Cardinals reassigned Aledmys Diaz to Minor League camp two weeks ago, it was done with an eye on getting him a bit more seasoning at Triple-A Memphis. It turns out, there's no time for that.

After losing Ruben Tejada to a left quad strain in Thursday's Grapefruit League finale and watching Tommy Pham exit Sunday's Opening Day game with a left oblique strain, the Cards opted to summon the right-handed-hitting shortstop before his season in Memphis began.

Diaz learned of the promotion Sunday afternoon and was in Pittsburgh ahead of St. Louis' midday workout at PNC Park. He made his first big league start Tuesday, playing shortstop and batting eighth in the 6-5 loss to the Pirates.

"It's very emotional," said Diaz, a Cuban defector who signed a four-year, $8 million deal with the Cards in March 2014. "It's pretty exciting to get the chance to be a part of the big leagues and this team and this organization. To be here, it's amazing. It's been a long journey, but we work for that."

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Pham, whose MRI exam revealed a tear in his left oblique, has been placed on the 15-day disabled list. Manager Mike Matheny said the Cardinals' medical staff believes Pham could be ready to return as soon as he is eligible. Oblique injuries, however, have the tendency to linger.

Pham, who has been plagued by injury issues throughout his career, became the fourth member of the Cards' expected 25-man roster to suffer an injury in a five-day span.

"We don't want it to happen, obviously, and don't necessarily plan on it, but we adjust to it," Matheny said. "We just keep going."

This time, it meant turning to Diaz, who went 9-for-34 (.265) in 15 games this spring and was considered a potential short-term replacement for the injured Jhonny Peralta before St. Louis signed Tejada. At that point, the club thought it was in Diaz's best interest to allow him the additional developmental time in Memphis, where he had previously played just 14 games.

Diaz thrived in that short stretch, though, hitting .380 with three homers to close out the 2015 season. He followed that up with a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League. After a period of adjusting to the competition in this country and getting past an arm injury that was related to the period of inactivity Diaz experienced after leaving Cuba, Diaz had found his stride.

The 25-year-old caught the attention of the coaching staff early in Spring Training.

"Overall, I thought he was much improved from what we saw before," Matheny said. "I saw good hands, good instincts. We saw the bat. The arm was so much better than what we saw before. He looked healthy. As soon as we sent him out we said, 'This guy showed us everything that he needed to show, and if the opportunity presents itself, he's going to get an opportunity to do something here.' So here we are."

The addition of Diaz also gives the Cardinals another right-hander to help balance a roster that lost a pair of right-handed bats with the recent injuries to Tejada and Pham. It frees Jedd Gyorko, Sunday's starting shortstop, to be an option at second base when the Cards want to sit the left-handed-hitting Kolten Wong against southpaws.

"I'm ready to play everywhere, every day," Diaz said. "If I have to go to the bench and help the team from there, I'll do that. I had to keep working and be ready for the moment. I had to keep working hard every day. That's what I did."