Cardinals add four players from Triple-A
Freese, Greene, Kinney, Pagnozzi join big club in Houston
HOUSTON -- The four newest Cardinals arrived at Minute Maid Park on Wednesday, hoping for a chance to pitch in but knowing their opportunities might be limited.
St. Louis added four players from Triple-A Memphis after that team lost in the Triple-A National Championship on Tuesday night. Infielders David Freese and Tyler Greene and pitcher Josh Kinney were recalled from Memphis, and the club purchased the contract of catcher Matt Pagnozzi. Two other seemingly likely candidates, outfielder Allen Craig and left-hander Royce Ring, did not get the call despite strong seasons.
All except Pagnozzi have been with the Cardinals already this season, while Pagnozzi impressed the Major League staff in Spring Training.
For Freese, the recall was a welcome end to what threatened at times to become a lost year. He began the season not only on the Major League roster but as the primary third baseman. But a lingering heel injury and resultant struggles at the plate forced him to the Minors and ultimately the disabled list. He underwent surgery on the heel, and didn't fully find his form until the last month of the season. He ended the year with very nice numbers, though, batting .313 with a .380 on-base percentage and a .551 slugging percentage across three levels.
"He was always prominent," manager Tony La Russa said. "It's just that he was unable. He took a tough hit, and he went through all the hard rehab work, got himself back. That's a step forward, just to come back and play. And he played well, so he earned a trip. It's just another example of why he's well thought of. It looks like he's got the kind of qualities that you can rely on."
Freese acknowledged that at times he wondered whether he'd be back in the big leagues in 2009.
"There were a lot of points, a lot of times where I didn't think this was possible," Freese said. "But I just kept working hard and rehabbing. I guess hard work pays off. So I'm glad to be here."
Greene helped the Cardinals out early in the year when Khalil Greene was on the disabled list, but his offensive numbers trended downward the longer he was in the Majors. Still, he's an excellent defensive infielder and offers another option in the middle infield.
"[I was] hopeful [of a callup]," he said. "You never know. I've come to learn that -- don't expect anything. Just try to control what you can control down there and just play."
Kinney, a key part of the Cardinals' run to a World Series title in 2006, spent the year trying to find his form after missing much of the past two years due to injuries. There may not be a great deal of innings for him in a bullpen that has nine other pitchers, but he's delighted to be back on the big league roster. Pagnozzi provides protection as a third catcher.
As for Craig and Ring, La Russa pointed to limited opportunities as well as roster math as the reasons for not bringing them in. Craig will be a serious candidate for the organization's Minor League Player of the Year, but as a right-handed hitter who does not excel at a defensive position, the manager didn't see much place for the youngster. Both Craig and Ring also would have had to be added to the 40-man roster in order to be called up.
"How are you going to use him? That was the problem," La Russa said of Craig. "We already have -- we may get [injured third baseman Troy Glaus] back for the last week. You already have Khalil. You have David. To put him on the roster when we don't need him yet doesn't make sense for the organization. It would have been a nice gesture for him, because he's definitely had an impressive year."
La Russa said he does not expect to find a great deal of at-bats, innings or starts for any of the newcomers, especially since the Cardinals still have two off-days remaining before the end of the season on Oct. 4.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.