ST. LOUIS -- Nick Punto will begin a Minor League rehab assignment on Monday with Double-A Springfield.Punto, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list on May 18 with a strained right forearm, is headed to Double-A ball because Springfield uses a designated hitter, meaning the infielder will be able to play while taking things slowly with his arm. "He will DH the first four days," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said on Saturday. Punto has not played since May 17, and is hitting .262 with 11 RBIs.
Cards, Royals welcome Joplin High players
ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals and Royals continued their "Teams Unite for Joplin" initiatives on Saturday as players from both clubs took batting practice wearing Joplin High School baseball caps. Joplin High was destroyed in the May 22 E5 tornado.Before the game, nine members of the Joplin High baseball team took the field and were met by the Cardinals' starters at each position, exchanging hats and receiving autographed baseballs. And before the bottom of the first inning, nine other members of the Joplin High baseball team took the field and were met by the Royals' starters at each position for a hat and autographed baseball exchange.
Kansas City's Jeff Francoeur, Billy Butler and Eric Hosmer, as well as St. Louis' Matt Holliday, all spent time in Joplin when they played for USA baseball."It means a lot," Butler said of the relief efforts for Joplin. "Obviously I got to see the city first-hand. It's a good place; it's a family-oriented community. I enjoyed my time there. I had a host family, and the first thing I did when the tragedy happened was to check if they were OK, and they were good. I was glad to see that."
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Others in Joplin, though, were not as fortunate. The tornado killed 154 people, and 6,953 homes were completely destroyed.The Cardinals held an online auction of "Teams Unite for Joplin" items, which included game-used lineup cards and autographed memorabilia, with all the proceeds going to the Joplin relief efforts. The Cardinals and the Royals wore special commemorative "Teams Unite for Joplin" jersey patches. Fans can purchase the patches for $10 online at cardinals.com/Joplin, royals.com/Joplin, or at the team stores at both Busch Stadium and Kauffman Stadium.
Cleto, Kozma added to Cardinals' roster
ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals shuffled their roster on Saturday, optioning Tyler Greene and Mark Hamilton to Triple-A Memphis and recalling Pete Kozma and Maikel Cleto from the Minors.Greene hit .198 and started the last two games at shortstop in place of Ryan Theriot, who was dealing with discomfort in his back and left leg. But with Theriot's return to the starting lineup and leadoff spot on Saturday, the door opened for the Cardinals to send Greene, who is 2-for-24 in June, to the Minors to get consistent time on the field and more at-bats. "He just needs to play," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said on Saturday. "He's hitting under .200, but he's not an under .200 hitter. He's got a lot of ability and a lot of future." Greene admitted that it's been hard for him to get a feel for things at the plate with his limited playing time and welcomed the opportunity to get more swings in the Minors. "Playing time's been scarce, so just go down there, get everyday playing time, try to get hot and get back as soon as possible," Greene said. "Go down there, get as many at-bats as possible and just go with the flow." Hamilton's bat had also gone cold, and the first baseman was hitless in his last 18 at-bats. Both Kozma and Cleto were called up for the second time this year, with Kozma coming from Memphis and Cleto returning from Double-A Springfield. "We were in a position where we had depth behind your squad, and now we're having to provide depth to the depth," La Russa said. Kozma had an RBI double in his first big league at-bat on May 18, but was sent down to Memphis on June 2. The former first-round pick hit .215 (11-for-51) with two homers and five RBIs in his latest stint in the Minors. Cleto made his Major League debut on June 2, surrendering back-to-back home runs in his first inning before a perfect second frame. He was sent back to Springfield the following day. The right-hander has made seven appearances (six starts) at Double-A, compiling a 2-2 record and 3.93 ERA with 36 strikeouts in 34 1/3 innings. Cleto is the 13th pitcher on the Cardinals' active roster, and La Russa said the right-hander would provide long relief for his taxed bullpen. Cleto was scheduled to start Saturday for Springfield.
Seeking jolt, La Russa bats Westbrook eighth
ST. LOUIS -- Starting pitcher Jake Westbrook batted eighth for the Cardinals on Saturday as manager Tony La Russa searched for a way to change his team's fortunes and halt a seven-game losing streak.Entering Saturday's game, La Russa had batted the pitcher eighth twice this season, on April 3 and April 9, with the Cardinals scoring two runs in each game. Westbrook hit eighth in the batting order seven times last year. "There's always something you can do, and this one makes some sense," La Russa said. The skipper said he considered batting the pitcher eighth in the series finale in Washington, but decided against it with the Nationals employing the same strategy. "It made a lot of sense Thursday, but then you get distracted when both teams are doing it," La Russa said. "I didn't want to distract the players."
Starter Brandon Dickson threw seven scoreless innings and Bryan Augenstein picked up the win with two more scoreless innings as Triple-A Memphis outdueled Nashville, 1-0, on Friday. Freddie Bynum's single drove in Matt Carpenter with two outs in the bottom of the ninth for the walk-off win. Double-A Springfield fell to Northwest Arkansas, 15-6, on Friday after the Cardinals jumped out to an early 5-1 lead. D'Marcus Ingram was 3-for-3 with a double and an RBI, and Steven Hill hit a solo home run. Jonathan Rodriguez went 2-for-2 with a homer as Class-A Quad Cities beat Peoria on Friday. Short-season Class A Batavia lost its season opener, 6-1, against Auburn on Friday. Nick Martini, the Cardinals' seventh-round selection in the 2011 Draft, went 1-for-4 in his Minor League debut.
Austin Laymance is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.