Brief turbulence is just that for Cards -- brief
ST. LOUIS -- Where other teams might see a crisis, the Cardinals seem to view the same thing as an opportunity.
For instance, starting center fielder Jon Jay went on the disabled list with left wrist tendinitis. While he was out, not one, but two outfielders, Randal Grichuk and Peter Bourjos, took their play to higher levels.
Now Jay is back, and the outfield is crowded with suitable candidates for regular play. This is not a problem, it is a situation.
The whole 2015 season is made of stuff like this for the Redbirds. Their ace, Adam Wainwright, is out for the year. Their eighth-inning setup man, Jordan Walden, went out after appearing in only 12 games. And this week, their first baseman and cleanup hitter, Matt Adams, was lost for a period estimated to be four months, or effectively, the rest of the regular season.
And yet, the Cardinals have baseball's best record as May nears its end. They moved to 32-16 on Friday night with their fifth straight victory, a 3-0 decision over the Dodgers at Busch Stadium.
Not only that, the Cardinals' 19-5 record at Busch Stadium is their best start at home in franchise history. They have had major personnel losses. They have not merely withstood these losses, they have found alternate ways to succeed, and succeed with stunning regularity.
The next thing on the docket is replacing Adams, who was not doing his best work, even before going out with a full tear of his right quadriceps.
The Cardinals obtained free agent Mark Reynolds to fortify their bench and provide at least occasional at-bats from the right side while filling in at first base. Reynolds has become, for the moment at least, the first-base heir apparent.
There was an interesting dynamic at work Friday, when Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak met with reporters. The questions seemed to demand dramatic, rapid action. The answers seemed to reflect a confident calm, sprinkled liberally with patience.
What was the Cardinals approach going to be at first base?
"I think the right approach right now is just to be patient and see how we play and see how things fit in," Mozeliak said. "But obviously, when you think about the addition of Reynolds, it was all about strengthening the bench. But frankly, with the way our guys have been playing in terms of our outfield, not everybody can play every night so I do think [the bench] is inherently stronger.
"I think we do have options [in the Minors]. As we've talked about, we do have Xavier Scruggs. You mentioned [Dan] Johnson. I would also say that [Stephen] Piscotty is swinging the bat well. I think we do have some internal options, but Johnson might fit the profile of a bench player better than anyone right now, so it's nice that we have him and we'll see how things unfold over the next few weeks."
Could Piscotty, a supplemental first-round Draft choice in 2012 and the team's No. 1-ranked prospect, be moved to first?
"It's something we've talked about," Mozeliak said. "Obviously, he was drafted as a third baseman and he played third base in college. I think the transition for him would be pretty easy, but again, I don't believe that we're desperate for coverage at first base. We have plenty of time, and again, somebody like Xavier Scruggs, whose numbers are relatively comparable to those of Piscotty, knows how to play first."
After the name of a very expensive first baseman with declining production was mentioned, Mozeliak said flatly: "Mark Reynolds was signed for a reason, and we're going to give him every opportunity."
Reynolds has had unmistakable power in his career, but he also had some shortcomings in the area of consistent contact. Reynolds hit 44 home runs for Arizona six years ago and 37 for Baltimore four years ago. For his career coming into this season, 36.8 percent of his at-bats had ended in strikeouts, which was obviously high. Last season with Milwaukee, 42.9 percent of his at-bats ended in strikeouts, which became insupportable. Small-sample-size alert, but this year, he is down to 35 percent of his at-bats ending in strikeouts.
The way things are going for the Cardinals, Reynolds, or somebody else playing first base, will tear it up as much as is necessary.
"It's different guys stepping up and filling roles and not shying away from doing a great job when asked to do something that they're not accustomed to doing," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "We're putting different lineups out there all the time, and we're not afraid to mix it up a little bit, because we've got faith in the next guy, whoever's turn it is.
"It's been different guys who have come up with the big hit, the big start, the big outing out of the bullpen."