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Fowler returns, addresses Mozeliak's comments

MLB.com @JoeTrezz

SAN FRANCISCO -- It was between calls and texts congratulating him of the birth of his second child that Dexter Fowler connected with John Mozeliak, via telephone, this week. The subject of the discussions, Fowler said Thursday, was twofold.

The Cardinals' struggling outfielder briefed the team's president of baseball operations on the healthy arrival of Ivy Noor, Fowler and his wife, Aliya's, new baby girl. Fowler and Mozeliak also talked about the comments Mozeliak made regarding Fowler and the team earlier in the week, in which Mozeliak referred to questions about "[Fowler's] effort and energy level."

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SAN FRANCISCO -- It was between calls and texts congratulating him of the birth of his second child that Dexter Fowler connected with John Mozeliak, via telephone, this week. The subject of the discussions, Fowler said Thursday, was twofold.

The Cardinals' struggling outfielder briefed the team's president of baseball operations on the healthy arrival of Ivy Noor, Fowler and his wife, Aliya's, new baby girl. Fowler and Mozeliak also talked about the comments Mozeliak made regarding Fowler and the team earlier in the week, in which Mozeliak referred to questions about "[Fowler's] effort and energy level."

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Mozeliak clarified his comments in the days that followed, telling MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch that while Fowler "has a different approach with how he deals with stuff … I know Dex is working."

Fowler responded publicly for the first time on Thursday, shortly after his reinstatement from the paternity list sparked a flurry of roster moves. The Cardinals placed Tyler O'Neill (left hamstring strain) on the disabled list to make room for Fowler on the active roster. The club also reinstated Matt Bowman (Raynaud's syndrome) from the DL and optioned the righty to Triple-A Memphis.

"Everybody is entitled to their opinions," Fowler said. "He told me it wasn't directed towards me, but obviously my name was in it. If your name is in it, it's kinda towards you, whether it's rescinded or not. I want to win more than anybody. I want to get the chance to help win."

Fowler also defended his effort level during a seven-minute interview with reporters at AT&T Park, saying: "My effort has always been there. I think that's out of the question. These guys in here know. I'm getting text messages from everybody. That's [garbage]. At the end of the day, I'm playing as hard as I can."

But the bulk of Fowler's media session centered on the topic of playing time, which he has seen less and less of over the past month-plus. Hitting .171 in the second season of a five-year, $82.5 million contract, Fowler has started just six of the club's last 18 games. He was not in Thursday's lineup.

"It's funny because, obviously, we're not doing well. I'm a big part of the team. If the blame goes on me, I'm willing to take it," Fowler said. "I've taken it before. But at the end of the day, I want the opportunity to play to make it right. If anybody, I feel like I should have a chance to make it right as well."

As he has for much of the past three weeks, Harrison Bader started in right field in Fowler's place. He fell a triple shy of the cycle in an 11-2 victory over the Giants. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Bader "earned" the start, citing the elite defense Bader can provide in San Francisco's complicated right-field dimensions.

"You feel like every game, this is the day we've got to put our best foot forward and take our run and who's going right that can help us get there? We realize, too, there are certain guys who you try to give opportunities, because the track record's there and we've had guys continue to prove that," Matheny said. "But in the same breath, we're over halfway through this season and we've got to go. He's going to get his chances and he starts looking like we know he can look, he plays. That's very clear. We just need to get him there."

Video: STL@SF: Bader crushes 2-run homer to center field

Around the horn
• Following a four-game rehab assignment at Triple-A Memphis, shortstop Paul DeJong rejoined the team in advance of his activation, which could come as early as Friday. The Cardinals want to see how DeJong responds medically to a "rest day," Matheny said, before being ready to play a couple of days in a row. DeJong has been on the DL since fracturing his left hand on May 17. He said will wear a protective guard above his batting glove upon his return.

Bud Norris was given a day off a night after feeling discomfort in his elbow Wednesday in Arizona. The Cardinals' closer will be reevaluated Friday before it is determined whether he will require a DL stint.

"We're still hoping it's just a zinger, one of those things you can't explain, but that he's better tomorrow," Matheny said.

• A fixture in the Cardinals' bullpen over the past two-plus seasons, Bowman was demoted for the first time since he was selected in the Rule 5 Draft in 2015. The righty appeared in 154 games since then. He pitched to a 5.75 ERA in 20 appearances this season and has required two DL stints to recover from Raynaud's, which discolors and causes numbness in his index and middle fingers.

Cards make move
The Cardinals made a minor transaction for pitching depth on Thursday morning, acquiring Minor League lefty Elniery Garcia in exchange for international cap space. Garcia, 23, rose methodically through the Phillies' system after signing out of the Dominican Republic as a teenager in 2011. But the southpaw struggled this season at Double-A Reading, going 0-6 with a 6.38 ERA in his second stint at the affiliate.

Garcia, who was suspended for 80 games in 2017 after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug, is currently on the DL. The Cardinals have not indicated where he will be assigned.

Hicks brings the heat
The highlight of Jordan Hicks' two-inning outing on Wednesday night in Arizona came in the seventh, when he dialed up the heat to get A.J. Pollock to wave helplessly at a 104.4-mph sinker. That was the fastest pitch to get a swinging strike by any pitcher since pitch tracking began a decade ago. Hicks surpassed the previous high of 104.2 mph, which had been held jointly by Aroldis Chapman (vs. Tommy Pham on Sept. 12, 2016) and Mauricio Cabrera (vs. Aaron Altherr on Sept. 2, 2016). After setting that mark, though, Hicks proceeded to plunk Pollock with his very next pitch: a 104.3-mph sinker, which, unfortunately for Pollock, is the fastest hit-by-pitch ever recorded.

"You see a ball coming at you like that, there's not a whole lot you can do. I'm very, very grateful that I feel good and am ready to play today," Pollock said. "Honestly, I was just lucky. I think it was just millimeters away from doing some really bad damage, but fortunately just a little bit of a bruise a little sore, but everything is good."

Video: STL@ARI: Jordan Hicks throws a 104.4 mph strike

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

St. Louis Cardinals, Dexter Fowler