Notes: La Russa shuffles rotation
Reyes earns spot after first win; Pineiro also slated to start
PITTSBURGH -- The Cardinals rotation will feature a new face and one that was a winner in the World Series last season. Anthony Reyes will take the mound for the Cards on Thursday, and manager Tony La Russa said he expects the newly acquired Joel Pineiro to step into the rotation, possibly on Saturday.
Reyes had pitched poorly early on this season, compiling an 0-10 record and 6.40 ERA while shuttling between the Cards and Triple-A. But he was given an opportunity to turn some heads when he was called up for a spot start on Saturday, and he did just that, earning a spot in the rotation by giving up two earned runs in six innings for just his third quality start of the season.
"I'm glad to be a part of it," Reyes said. "It's something you work for all offseason to try and make the club. I'm excited to have the opportunity."
Another player getting a new opportunity in the Cardinals rotation will be Pineiro. La Russa said he expects the right-hander to start for the Cardinals and he wants him take the mound as soon as possible.
"There's an opening Saturday and we'll see if Pineiro is ready to take it," La Russa said.
Should Pineiro not take the mound, either Brad Thompson or Mike Maroth will start in his place. Neither has been stellar so far this season: Thompson has a 5.15 ERA and Maroth has given up 30 earned runs in his six starts with the Cards.
With the additions, the rotation shapes up with Braden Looper starting on Wednesday, followed by Reyes, Kip Wells, Pineiro, Maroth or Thompson on Saturday and Adam Wainwright on Sunday.
Bullpen reinforced: The Cardinals are still carrying only five relievers, but the bullpen will be strengthened, partly by Reyes' strong outing on Saturday. His move to the rotation allows La Russa to add starters Maroth and Thompson to the 'pen "for this series, at least."
Maroth has struggled in his last five starts after giving up one earned run in 7 1/3 innings against the Mets on June 25, and La Russa hopes a move to the bullpen will give him a chance to work through his struggles. It will be a new setting for the left-hander; he's made just four relief appearances in 153 games.
That's not the case with Thompson, who has experience as a starter and reliever this season. He's made 13 starts and 18 appearances out of the bullpen this season.
"I think one of his strengths is his versatility," La Russa said. "What do you need from him? You can bring him in a [relief] situation and he's got experience there or he can start."
Perspective on the weekend: The Cardinals' three-game winning streak against the Brewers on Saturday and Sunday has many in St. Louis getting excited about the defending World Series champs getting back into the pennant race, but La Russa kept things in perspective on Tuesday.
"If we don't come out and have a winning week, then all it was was an exciting weekend," La Russa said. "If we go out and generate some wins, then that has more significance."
The Cards sat six games behind the Brewers for the NL Central lead and 6 1/2 games out of the lead in the crowded Wild Card race entering play on Tuesday.
Regarding Russell: General manager Walt Jocketty expressed, at best, cautious optimism regarding fourth-round draft pick Kyle Russell. The outfielder, a draft-eligible sophomore, set the University of Texas single-season home run record. He was considered a first-round talent, but fell to the fourth round because of signability concerns.
"We're still hoping to get a deal done, but I really don't know if it will get done," Jocketty said. "We haven't had a discussion in a while. We talked to them [the Hendricks brothers, Russell's representatives] last week, and told them I wasn't going to do anything until after the trade deadline."
Russell, a left-handed batter, hit 28 home runs in 223 at-bats for the Longhorns, drew 46 walks and struck out 64 times. He also stole 10 bases for the perennial college baseball powerhouse.
"I'd like to get him signed," Jocketty said. "He strikes out a lot, but a lot of power hitters do. He would be a nice guy to have. ... We knew it was going to take a while to sign him. He's got a lot of leverage. He's a sophomore."
Perez promoted: Reliever Chris Perez was promoted from Double-A Springfield to Triple-A Memphis on Tuesday. Perez was outstanding in Springfield, compiling a 2.43 ERA and converting on 27 of 28 save chances. He struck out 62 in 40 2/3 innings.
Perez, a 2006 first-round supplimental pick, will assume the closer's role in Memphis right off the bat.
"It's been the goal from the start, to get promoted and keep getting closer," Perez said. "This is what you want to happen. I feel like I did what I needed to do down there. So, it's nice to have a new challenge."
Minor moves: Memphis starter Chris Narveson was placed on the DL on Tuesday with a sore knee. Narveson last started on July 26, and had a no-hitter through 5 2/3 innings before having to leave with the knee injury. It was his first start since returning from the DL with a strained oblique.
Also, Amaury Marti, who was batting .337 with 14 homers and 67 RBIs in the Mexican League, will join the Springfield Cardinals, now that the Mexican League has ended. The 32-year old Cuban defector and 18th-round pick in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft would have joined the club in Memphis had it not been for a logjam of outfielders at the Triple-A level.
Injury updates: A day after Tyler Johnson tossed a perfect inning for Triple-A Memphis, La Russa was optimistic about his progression, but said the left-hander still has work to be done before he's ready to return the Cardinals. "He's got to pass a couple of tests, but if he passes the tests, he'll be close," La Russa said. ... Right-hander Todd Wellemeyer threw a bullpen session on Tuesday, and La Russa said he had a setback because he was rushing his recovery. But La Russa said the setback wasn't serious. ... Mark Mulder took another step in his recovery when he threw to Cardinals' hitters during batting practice at the Cardinals Spring Training facility in Florida on Tuesday.
On this date: In 1997, the Cardinals acquired slugger Mark McGwire from the A's for three pitchers. Cardinals fans know what happened from there. McGwire slugged a then-record 70 homers in 1998 and played with the Cards until he retired after the 2001 season with 583 career home runs.
Baby 'Birds: Triple-A Memphis took down Fresno, 7-1, on the strength of a three home runs in the second. Jolbert Cabrera, Rick Ankiel and Tagg Bozied all homered in the five-run inning. Starter Mike Smith was the beneficiary of the offensive explosion as he picked up his team-leading 10th win. ... Double-A Springfield had the day off. ... Luke Gorsett led off the bottom of the ninth with a walk-off home run to give Class A Palm Beach a 6-5 win over Daytona. . . . Class A Quad Cities extended its winning streak to six with a 6-2 win over South Bend. Reigning Midwest League Player of the Week Steve Hill went 2-for-5. ... Class A Batavia fell to Williamsport, 4-3, as reliever Josh Fritsche gave up two runs in 2 1/3 innings and took the loss.
On deck: The Cards will send Braden Looper (8-8, 4.85 ERA) to the mound to face Tony Armas (0-3, 6.93 ERA) in the second game of the Redbirds' three game series with the Pirates. First pitch is set for 6:05 p.m. CT at PNC Park.
Jeremy Anders is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Daniel Berk contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.