07/26/12 1:50 AM ET
Eager to contribute, Fuentes called up to Cards
By Mike Still / MLB.com
The Cardinals agreed and purchased the lefty's contract from Springfield on Wednesday. Fuentes arrived at Busch Stadium early Wednesday afternoon and was available to pitch against the Dodgers.
"I think it's gonna be great for both of us," Fuentes said. "I know that I can be successful at this level and pitch to a high level, and to come into this bullpen and help bridge the gap to [closer Jason Motte]. I can be that guy."
Fuentes was released by Oakland on July 11 and signed a Minor League deal with the Cardinals on July 15. Prior to pitching an inning in Double-A on Tuesday, Fuentes appeared in two games this month with Cardinals' Gulf Coast League affiliate.
Fuentes began the year as an important component of Oakland's bullpen -- posting a 2.84 ERA in 19 games through May 27 -- but was used sparingly after a handful of rough outings in June. He said he pitched himself into a trap where he could only improve if he threw more but hadn't earned enough opportunities.
But Fuentes said he's now confident after a few successful Minor League outings that he can be an asset in the late innings for the Cardinals' bullpen, which now features three left-handers. Marc Rzepczynski and Barret Browning are the others.
"I have a lot of pride, for sure," Fuentes said. "I don't really pitch with that vengeance on my mind, or that I'm trying to disprove or prove somebody wrong. I pitch to win. I'm here to pitch one inning time at a time and help this team get to the next level. That's what I'm focused on."
Fuentes doesn't see himself as a lefty specialist but said he was open to the idea if manager Mike Matheny felt that role was best suited for him. Matheny said it will take some time to figure out the best way to use Fuentes, but the manager does feel Fuentes' experience will be valuable for the younger relievers.
"I think he can definitely be an asset, talking to them about how he's faced some of the bigger left-handers in the league," Matheny said. "I know that's his makeup, too. He likes talking about the game."
The Cardinals optioned right-hander Victor Marte to Triple-A and designated right-hander Chuckie Fick for assignment to make room for Fuentes. Marte had struggled recently, allowing three homers in three innings over seven outings in July.
"He just kind of ran into a bad spot here where he was having trouble in situations," Matheny said. "So get him some consistent work and then we know that he's an asset that we can use as we go forward."
Berkman sits but not worried about knee bruise
ST. LOUIS -- Lance Berkman could barley run to from first to second base on Tuesday night after taking an 84 mph slider from Clayton Kershaw off his right knee -- the same knee Berkman had surgery on two months ago.
Berkman was out of the Cardinals' starting lineup on Wednesday against the Dodgers and said he's still feeling pain from the deep bone bruise that forced him to leave Tuesday's game in the third inning.
But Berkman was able to pinch-hit and drew a crucial walk with one out in the 12th inning in the Cardinals' 3-2 win. He quickly fell behind 1-2 in the count but battled in a seven-pitch at-bat against Dodgers reliever Jamey Wright and was lifted for pinch-running pitcher Joe Kelly, who scored the winning run on Rafael Furcal's single.
Berkman doesn't expect the bruise to have any lasting effects once the swelling subsides.
"It's a bruise y'all. Y'all have had bruises," Berkman said. "It's not like it's a major deal."
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny shared in Berkman's optimism.
"He'll be fine," Matheny said. "It just hit a bad spot."
Freese is Cards' winner of Heart and Hustle Award
ST. LOUIS -- Third baseman David Freese has been named the winner of the Heart and Hustle Award for the Cardinals, which is handed out to a player from each of the 30 Major League clubs by the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association (MLBPAA).
Thirty committees are formed by the MLBPAA, comprised of alumni players with established relationships to each team. One player from each Major League team is chosen by the committees based on the passion, desire and work ethic demonstrated both on and off the field.
"I think when you're out on the field you want to play hard and do what you can," Freese said. "You don't strive for getting these awards because that's not what it's all about. But when you get recognized, you're very appreciative."
The award will be presented to Freese by alumni Major Leaguer John Mabry, who spent eight of his 14 years in the big leagues with St. Louis and now serves as the Cardinals' assistant hitting coach.
"The way he went about it, being successful but his work ethic and being a good teammate, that's what people remember," Freese said of Mabry.
Freese was named to his first All-Star team this season after winning the National League Final Vote. The 2011 World Series MVP entered Wednesday batting .306 with 56 RBIs and was hitting .409 since June 21.
As the season draws to a close, fans, all alumni and active players will vote to select the final winner from the 30 team winners. The previous overall winners are Craig Biggio (2006, 2007), Grady Sizemore (2008), Albert Pujols (2009), Roy Halladay (2010), and Torii Hunter (2011).
The final winner will be announced Tuesday, Nov. 13, at the 13th annual Legends for Youth Dinner in New York City.
Cardinals starters have had 19 straight starts of at least six innings, the club's longest such streak since a 21-game stretch from Aug. 16 to Sept. 6, 2004. The last time a Cardinals starter failed to go six innings was on June 30, when Lance Lynn threw five innings against the Pirates.
Carlos Beltran took a six-game hitting streak into Wednesday's game and was batting .304 with two homers over that span. July hasn't been good to Beltran, though. He entered Wednesday batting just .212 this month. He hit .337 in June and .326 in May.
Members of the Long Haul Bombers team stopped at Busch Stadium on Wednesday as a part of their 2012 Stadium Power Tour. The Bombers entertained fans before the game with a Long Haul Derby, as they routinely crushed softballs to the upper decks of Busch Stadium. Johnny McCraw of Team Combat won the competition with 12 homers.
Mike Still is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.