The “real shot” the Cardinals intend to give Edmundo Sosa to win the everyday job at shortstop began Saturday and will continue Sunday with his first starts at the position in weeks, but something happened for the Cardinals on the way to queue up games for Sosa’s audition.
Rookie Brendan Donovan kept hitting, kept providing what the Cardinals kept lacking.
Donovan doubled the Cardinals’ first run in their 4-0 victory Saturday, and the left-handed hitting infielder has reached base in nine of his past 13 plate appearances. His performance since his promotion has rewritten several lineups, including shortstop, where he started most of the past week. Manager Oliver Marmol agreed he’s playing the “hot hand.”
“I think so,” Marmol said. “I try to be more concerned with how guys are feeling than just their results. … How guys are feeling, their confident level, (more) than just they’ve gotten a hit or not and playing the hot hand that way. ”
Marmol gave the example of Dylan Carlson and his recent prominence in the lineup based on the improvement the team sees in his swing.
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Donovan, batting .320 through his first 15 big-league games, turned his success at the plate into an extended look at a shortstop even after Sosa’s return from a positive COVID test. Donovan’s first big-league homer carried over right field – with the exact swing and lift to the pull side the Cardinals wanted to see him unlock in spring. A couple hits one day yielded a start ahead of Sosa the next, and so on. On Saturday, the wish to keep Donovan in the lineup allowed Marmol to slide Nolan Arenado to the designated hitter spot for a break from the field. Donovan started at third, opening shortstop for Sosa.
The right-handed hitting Sosa, 26, finished last season as the Cardinals’ starter at shortstop for the playoff game, supplanting Paul DeJong. Entering Saturday’s game, Sosa had hit .154 (three-for-26) with 12 strikeouts in limited play this season. He went one-for-three with a run scored Saturday.
For a team starved for runs, Donovan’s bat has offered an alternative even as Sosa has the experience, glove, and past performance at the plate. Marmol does not see a platoon developing at the pivotal spot.
“When you look at how we use Sosa, it definitely won’t be Sosa is just playing against left-handed pitchers,” Marmol said. “Sosa is going to get a real shot at playing short. It’s a matter of that tough righty with tough sink in on his hands. That’s a Donovan day. ”
Waino starts, VerHagen back
For ESPN’s national telecast from Busch Stadium on Sunday night, the Cardinals will start Adam Wainwright and are expected to have Yadier Molina and Albert Pujols in the lineup. Wainwright makes his return from the COVID injury list after missing one start due to a positive test. He never developed symptoms from the virus, the right-hander said.
To fortify the bullpen, the Cardinals retrieved right-hander Drew VerHagen from his rehab assignment one game earlier than initially planned.
VerHagen missed three weeks recovering from irritation and a hip impingement, and his return was slowed by COVID-19. He had three days of illness followed by several days of fatigue that pushed back his second rehab start. In it, he retired all six batters he faced Thursday for Class AA Springfield, and he did so on 28 pitches.
“My body and my pitches have been more consistent,” VerHagen said. “It’s hard to focus when you’re pitching in pain, and so it’s like it’s another challenge, another layer to the challenge if you’re experiencing pain. Just got to a point where I felt like we needed to get it right. ”
To make room on the active roster the Cardinals optioned lefty Packy Naughton to Triple-A Memphis. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement limits the number of times a team can option a player in a single season to five; Naughton has two already.
On the eve of his 311th start with Wainwright, Molina continued to match or surpass his peers in career numbers. The shutout Saturday was Molina’s 152nd behind the plate, second only to Yogi Berra’s 173.… With two hits Saturday, Molina has 2,129 and moves ahead of Hall of Famer Mike Piazza for sixth all-time among catchers. … The second-inning double was Molina’s 582nd extra-base hit, pushing him past Brian McCann and Benito Santiago into 13th among catchers. … Molina’s 565th career multi-hit game breaks a tie with Red Schoendienst for sixth all-time in Cardinals ’history. … With his first at-bat Sunday, Molina will pass Jason Kendall and be alone in sixth for catchers with 7,268.
Hicks’ glove, Nootbaar, etc.
Jordan Hicks said he’ll likely switch to light-tan glove with red threads for his next start after having two of his other gloves bounced from the game for being two-tone and against the rules. Hicks pitched five innings Friday using Miles Mikolas glove, and his teammate said Hicks could keep the glove, for a price. Outfielder Lars Nootbaar has missed a week of games for Class AAA Memphis due to an ankle injury sustained when leaping to try and rob a home run at the wall. … Before Saturday’s afternoon game, the Giants retooled the roster by trading outfielder Mauricio Dubon to Houston for Class AAA outfielder Michael Pepierski. To take Dubon’s spot on the roster, San Francisco promoted infielder Donovan Walton and, by design, started the left-handed batter Saturday vs. Dakota Hudson.