Let me say right up front that
this is a more personally-oriented article than I usually run here. It is an
unusual situation to become even a minor part of any story, but that is
precisely what happened Wednesday.
First, let’s get the official
transaction information out of the way. After all, that is the main reason this
post is here:
- On Wednesday, the St. Louis Cardinals purchased the contract of right-handed reliever Mike MacDougal from
- In the corresponding move, the
Cardinals optioned right-handed reliever Fernando Salas to Memphis.
In a side note, the Cardinals’
40-man roster is again at its limit. Dropped to 39 when Josh Kinney was
outrighted on July 3, I assumed the spot would be used when Kyle Lohse will be
activated off the 60-day disabled list. Now, another move will be required to
clear room when Lohse is ready to officially rejoin St. Louis.
Now that we have the formalities
out of the way, here is my small story behind the story.
When we arrived at New York’s Citi Field on
Wednesday afternoon for the second of a three-game series, we weren’t sure what
the lead stories of the day would be. All the clever introductory questions were
asked to manager Tony La Russa and general manager John Mozeliak the day before.
Without an injury or trade to report, it had the early appearance of a quiet
Soon that all changed with the
news that MacDougal’s contract had been purchased by the Cardinals from Triple-A
Memphis. The first questions were simple. Is he at the ballpark? Who is he
replacing on the roster?
I headed downstairs to the
Cardinals clubhouse at 3:30 p.m. but had to wait until 3.40 to get in. In the
meantime, the tall and slender MacDougal was out in the main concourse on his
cell phone. Of course, I couldn’t query him then.
Once inside, my first step was to
study the Cardinals lineup card, taped to the clubhouse wall by bench coach Joe
Pettini as it is every day. FOX Sports Midwest’s Jim Hayes had already tweeted
the day’s lineup. I skipped over that to scan the list of available relievers.
MacDougal was there, but no Fernando Salas.
Just ahead and to my right sat the
“missing” Mr. Salas at his clubhouse stall as always. He seemed in no hurry to
A quick check with a club staffer
solved the mystery. The timing of the moves precluded booking a flight that day
for Salas to return to Memphis for the fourth time this season, so
with the major league club he remained for one day, at least physically. After
throwing 41 pitches the night before, Salas would be of no immediate use to La
Russa and Dave Duncan, anyway.
Up came the fresh arm, MacDougal,
who last pitched for Memphis on Monday. After FOXSportsMidwest.com’s
B.J. Rains and I were the first of a group of writers to converge on his
clubhouse stall to get his reaction, MacDougal patiently answered the same
questions several times as new waves of media arrived.
He was excited to be here. He was
with his wife after Memphis’ game on Tuesday when he learned the news,
I must admit that it is different
covering a game with a colleague and friend like Rains. As he stood next to me
recording the same comments from the new pitcher and sitting by me while later
capturing La Russa’s reaction to the move, I wondered what I could add to the
story. The reality is not a lot, so head over to FOXSportsMidwest.com to read
article. I can assure you, all the quotes are real!
Standing around in the clubhouse
trying to decide how I might write about the change, I started up a bit of
chit-chat with Cardinals equipment manager Rip Rowan, a professional to the nth
In fact, it was a continuation of
a conversation from the previous day that was truncated when Mozeliak decided to
meet with the media. Rank has its privileges. The subject with Rowan had been
Cardinals uniform numbers.
As I have harped on for seemingly
years now, I am against the retirement of certain numbers, but that is neither
here nor there today. What is relevant is that Rowan is one of the many who has
to deal with all the changes, with the temporary ones as much or more
problematic than the permanent ones.
Between retired numbers, the ones
currently in use and those being reserved, Rowan is quite limited in his options
to assign numbers to new arrivals such as MacDougal.
Informally reserved numbers vary
from ones like number 51, not used out of respect for Willie McGee to the late
Darryl Kile’s 57 to the number 40 worn by Memphis’ P.J. Walters. After all, if/when
Walters returns, it would be preferable for him to get his number back, which
also keeps it from being given to another player in the
When given a heads up about
MacDougal’s possible arrival late Tuesday night, Rowan made a quick assessment
of the situation, assigning staffers to sew “MacDougal” on the back of a
properly-sized number 63 jersey so it would be ready the next
As I looked at the “63” above
MacDougal’s stall, I re-opened the uniform number discussion with Rowan. He
reiterated his limitations in deciding which pair of digits to bestow upon
Among the informally reserved
numbers Rowan cited was number 48, worn by veteran lefty Rich Hill in spring
training. It also happened to be the number that Hill wore in Memphis prior to his
release on June 30.
Understandably busy with the myriad of tasks for which he is responsible every day, Rowan missed the news that Hill had
left the organization and of course that MacDougal had assumed Hill's old number 48 upon signing with
the Cardinals and joining Memphis. Therefore, Rowan didn’t know that he no
longer had to keep aside 48 with St.
Once I told Rowan about Hill’s
departure, he quickly huddled with the newest Cardinal to discuss a number
change. MacDougal readily agreed, which was good to see. After all, some players
have strong opinions about such matters.
There was not enough time to make
the change on Wednesday and with a day game on getaway Thursday, the decision
was made for MacDougal to become Cardinals number 48 upon the club’s return to
St. Louis. In
the meantime, he will be number 63, last worn in the regular season by another
reliever, Chris Perez, in 2008.
I was proud of myself for
imparting the Hill news until one clubhouse wag dampened my spirits by only-half
jokingly observing “MacDougal will only be number 48 if he makes it to St.
Louis…” in reference to the frequent changes in the Cardinals relief staff
He had a point. This month alone,
there have been at least eight different transactions affecting Cardinals
relievers including Adam Ottavino, Evan MacLane, Walters and of course,
MacDougal and Salas.
Like Hill, MacDougal had an
opt-out clause in his contract if not in St. Louis, but the date was still out in the
future, he disclosed on Wednesday.
Time will tell if the Cardinals’
eighth relief transaction of the month will be their last.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Selected TCN content also appears at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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