8/20/2014 2:08 A.M. ET
Versatile Garcia joins Cards in utility role
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- Seeking a utility infielder for their bench, the Cardinals dipped into their Triple-A depth on Tuesday and plucked Greg Garcia for the second time this season. He took the roster spot of Mark Ellis, who was placed on the disabled list with a strained left oblique.
Garcia, who was with the Cardinals for two weeks in April/May, gives the Cardinals another left-handed bat off the bench and a player who can move around to cover any of the infield positions. He's played primarily at second this year, but is a natural shortstop and has continued to take ground balls at third to be ready in case he's needed there.
"I think he's had the kind of year that deserves to get an opportunity to help us," manager Mike Matheny said. "He's had a nice season and is a pretty versatile guy."
In 103 games with Triple-A Memphis, Garcia hit .273 with 40 RBIs. He's had an especially strong run since the All-Star break, batting .326 with 19 runs and 12 RBIs in 29 games. He will not continue to get those everyday at-bats at the Major League level, but will have an opportunity to contribute off the bench.
"It's about embracing a role but not accepting it," Garcia said. "I think we all want to be starters at some point in our careers. It's about getting your foot in the door. Right now, I know what my role is and I want to do the best that I can for this team to help them win."
Asked why the Cardinals opted to summon Garcia instead of the right-handed-hitting infielder Pete Kozma (who is also already on the 40-man roster), Matheny said the organization values keeping Kozma in a place where he can get everyday repetitions at shortstop.
"If something did happen here, we know we have someone who has been playing on a consistent basis who can be plugged in here," Matheny said. "He's a guy that we know can play great defense. Pete is somebody we'll keep sharp just in case we need him."
Kozma will likely be among those players added in September when rosters expand beyond 25.
Peralta sets Cards shortstop homer mark
ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals were bold in their pursuit of Jhonny Peralta last offseason, believing the veteran shortstop would offer the club a substantial offensive boost at a position where there had been below-average production in 2013.
Peralta, in the first year of a four-year contract, has not disappointed.
With a 438-foot shot into the second deck of the left-field stands on Tuesday night, Peralta assumed sole possession as the franchise's single-season home run leader at the shortstop position. The homer was Peralta's 17th of the season, seventh at Busch Stadium and, using data compiled by ESPN's home run tracker, his longest of the year.
"I think a lot of talk has been had about our offense and the lack of power and he's a guy who has obviously stood out," manager Mike Matheny said after the Cardinals' 5-4 win. "Every time he steps up there, he has the ability to hit it out of just about any park. He takes good at-bats, too.
"The entire package, he's been a great asset to this team, a great asset all the way around -- as a veteran player, a defender and just an overall baseball player. Those numbers speak for themselves. There have been some real good shortstops come through here, and to be in a classification of all-time anything is a great honor."
The sixth-inning home run was also the first of four unanswered runs the Cardinals would score to pull out the win.
Peralta, who was unavailable to speak about the feat afterward, already set a record for most home runs in April after hitting six in that opening month. His 17 blasts lead the club and rank third among all shortstops in the Majors, trailing only the Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki and the Nationals' Ian Desmond.
Peralta broke the previous mark of 16 for Cardinal shortstops, shared by Daryl Spencer (1960) and Edgar Renteria (2000).
Descalso is stepping up of late
ST. LOUIS -- The starts have been scarce and until recently, so had been the timely production. But Daniel Descalso has quietly put together a strong stretch this month, providing production similar to what he has late in the season the last few years.
In each of the Cardinals' pair of one-run wins over the Reds on Monday and Tuesday, Descalso delivered a game-tying, pinch-hit double to spark a come-from-behind victory. His double in Tuesday's 5-4 win was his fifth off the bench this season, tying him with Matt Carpenter (2012), Roger Freed (1978), Willie McGee (1997) and Gerald Perry (1994) for the most by a Cardinals pinch-hitter since 1974.
"Pinch-hitting is not easy by any means. He came up and did a good job like he's been doing the last couple weeks," teammate Jon Jay said. "He works his tail off. He's a winning player. He's a gamer. For him to get results like that, it's great to see."
Descalso is 8-for-36 as a pinch-hitter this season but has reached base in five of his last 12 pinch-hit appearances. In addition, he went 5-for-8 in the two starts he has made this month. It has helped him bump up his average to a season-high .212.
"I'm just trying to go up there and have a good at-bat," said Descalso, who before Tuesday had been 0-for-16 with runners in scoring position and two outs. "All I can do is try to put it in play in that spot. Don't worry about what else is going on. Just go up there and try to get a good pitch to hit."
Ellis lands on DL with left oblique strain
ST. LOUIS -- A day after Cardinals manager Mike Matheny revealed that Mark Ellis was unavailable for the team's series opener against the Reds because of soreness, the veteran infielder was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left oblique strain.
Specifics on the injury were slim, as Ellis, through a team spokesperson, declined to answer questions and Matheny only knew that the issue arose when Ellis was out on the field Monday afternoon. The spokesperson merely offered, "It is what it is," when asked for additional detail on the moment of injury and severity.
Matheny noted that the club is "pretty optimistic" that Ellis will be able to return after a minimum stay on the DL. Ellis, 37, started for St. Louis at second base on Thursday but hadn't played since, which allows the Cardinals to backdate the DL stint to Friday, making him eligible to return on Aug. 30.
Since July 6, Ellis had made just four starts. In 65 games, he has hit .192 with a .267 on-base percentage and a .228 slugging mark.
Memphis' success won't alter callup plans
ST. LOUIS -- With less than two weeks remaining in their regular season, the Cardinals' Triple-A Memphis affiliate continues to make a strong push toward a division title and playoff berth.
With a win on Monday, Memphis has reeled off nine straight victories, matching the longest winning streak in franchise history (set in 2000) as well as equaling the longest in the Pacific Coast League this year. The Redbirds, now a season-high 13 games over .500, hold a one-game advantage over Nashville in their division.
"It was definitely fun down there playing," said Greg Garcia, a key member of that Memphis club until his callup on Tuesday. "Going into the All-Star break, I felt like we were playing a lot of real good baseball and we were winning a lot of close games. … We started winning those games and we started gaining confidence. This last two or three weeks, it just seems like we've expected to win. Someone was going to get a big hit."
On Monday, it was catcher Ed Easley, who drove in a season-high five and had his second three-hit game of the season. The team is batting .309 this month and has seven players with batting averages north of .300. Each of the last three weeks, someone from the club has been the recipient of a PCL weekly award.
However, if the club succeeds in winning the division, the look of the club in the PCL playoffs could change somewhat dramatically. The Cardinals have already talked about bringing a large group of players up to St. Louis when rosters expand in September, and those players will be coming off that Memphis team. A postseason berth will not alter those plans.
"I think everybody is pretty clear in our system what the priorities are, and the priority is winning here," manager Mike Matheny said. "If we have need, we go get players who can come and help us. They do a great job of adapting in our system to fill holes. We just push forward with the best that we have."
• Jason Motte (lower back strain) played catch on Tuesday for the first time since being placed on the disabled list on Aug. 8. Motte estimated that he threw 15 times from a distance of 90 feet. He will continue the flat-ground work for several days before returning to the mound.
• Cardinals hitting coach John Mabry presented third baseman Matt Carpenter with the Cardinals' Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association's Heart and Hustle Award on Tuesday. Carpenter, a two-time winner, will be among the 30 team winners to be considered for MLB's overall honor, to be awarded in November. The award is given annually to a player who best demonstrates passion for the game of baseball and the values, spirit and traditions of the game.
• Bob Costas, an MLB Network broadcaster and longtime St. Louis resident, threw out a ceremonial first pitch prior to calling Tuesday's game for a national audience. After throwing the ball past catcher A.J. Pierzynski, Costas made a second throw that caught part of the plate.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.