These Cardinals rookies continue to impress

Gorman, Donovan, Pallante play key roles in series-opening win over Reds

July 16th, 2022

ST. LOUIS -- Undoubtedly, Cardinals fans will be tuned into the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game on Saturday to watch infielders Jordan Walker and Masyn Winn -- the organization’s Nos. 1 and 4 prospects, respectively, per MLB Pipeline -- to get a peek at the talent that should be playing for the franchise for years to come.

However, for those Cards fans who didn’t want to wait for a glimpse into the future, all they had to do was watch the way rookies Nolan Gorman, Brendan Donovan and Andre Pallante took down the Reds in a 7-3 victory at Busch Stadium on Friday night.

Gorman hammered his ninth home run, Donovan drove in three runs and retook the National League rookie RBI lead (29) and Pallante outdueled fellow Southern California native Hunter Greene. They were the latest young stars to have big nights for a previously veteran-laden St. Louis squad that has had 13 rookies make their Major League debuts in 2022.

“Credit to them and what they have done, and to our Minor League system for sending us guys who are ready, not scared and have embraced the moment,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “We wouldn’t be here without the contributions from our young guys. Also, credit them for surrounding themselves with the right people and asking the right questions. They’re looking to get better. They’re not just depending on their talent, but they’re looking to get better.”

There was also a learning experience for another Cards youngster, as 25-year-old reliever Génesis Cabrera wasn't pleased with his performance in the contest. The left-hander spiked the ball on the mound when Marmol came out to remove him in the ninth inning with two runners on and no outs.

One of St. Louis' most reliable relievers all season, Cabrera has struggled since returning from an illness that sent him to the injured list. He retired Joey Votto and Kyle Farmer to end the eighth, but he gave up singles to Donovan Solano and Tyler Stephenson to open the ninth, when Marmol went out to remove him.

From there, a frustrated Cabrera threw the ball straight down onto the mound, and Marmol grabbed the reliever around the waist and spun him around to talk. Once in the dugout, Cabrera was approached by Albert Pujols and other veteran players.

“End of the day, he’s a little frustrated with how the last couple of days have gone. At the same time, your ego can’t get in the way of being a professional,” Marmol said. “I’ve known him a long time and he’ll be just fine.

“Listen, the kid’s a competitor and he wants to be in there, and you can’t fault him for that. I want him to have the mentality of wanting the ball and not coming out. But there’s a way you go about it. We have a good veteran group that will address it, and we’ll handle it internally.”

The Cardinals' strong rookie group includes the promising Gorman, who a year ago was preparing to play in the 2021 Futures Game but is now tormenting MLB pitchers with the pop off his bat. Gorman's nine homers rank fourth among NL rookies. Stuck in a 2-for-23 slump, Gorman hit a hanging slider from Greene 387 feet, a blast that left his bat at 105.2 mph, per Statcast. Incredibly, that was the shortest homer so far from Gorman, who already has six of 400-plus feet.

“Loud -- it’s loud, and it’s different,” Donovan said of Gorman’s at-bats. “I’m kind of spoiled because I’ve seen him do it for a couple of years now. When we were first playing together, I was like, ‘I want to do that.’ Now, I’ve accepted that I’m never going to do that.”

What Donovan can do, though, is frustrate pitchers by working them deep in counts, continuously fouling off pitches until he finds one he can handle. In the first, he fell behind 1-2 in the count against Greene, fouled off two pitches and then drove one to the warning track for a sacrifice fly. In the seventh, Donovan fouled off four straight pitches before hitting a 94 mph cutter from Ian Gibaut the opposite way to left field for a two-run single.

“He’s a grinder at the plate, and he’s a tough out for any pitcher,” Gorman said of Donovan. “It’s awesome to see how big he keeps coming up in a lot of big situations. It’s always been a lot of fun watching him.”

When the Cardinals left Spring Training in early April, Pallante was the only rookie on the roster. He’s since been joined by many of his former Triple-A Memphis and Arizona Fall League teammates in St. Louis, and he’s loving it.

“Personally, I’m a lot less lonely,” said Pallante, who notched his third MLB win by allowing three runs in five innings. “But it’s awesome seeing them all come here and do well. We have such a good bond.”