MONTERREY, Mexico — With help from a five-run gush that snapped a tie and pushed the Cardinals ahead for the final two innings Sunday, manager Mike Shildt had the moment he wanted, the thank you he could give the city of Monterrey and the memory of a lifetime he could offer a player.
He only had to listen to the crowd’s chant.
“Gallegos. Gallegos. Gallegos,” it sang.
In the eighth inning of Sunday’s 9-5 victory against Cincinnati, Cardinals reliever Giovanny Gallegos emerged from the bullpen and slowly the chant became an ovation that spread through Estadio de Beisbol Monterrey. Gallegos, the only Mexican-born player on either roster in the Mexico Series, pitched to two batters and finished his outing a strike out. He left the field to another ovation. Gallegos became the fourth major-league player born in Mexico to appear in one of Major League Baseball’s games in Mexico.
“I’m super happy, really happy to go off with a win,” Gallegos said. “Super-proud to be here as a Mexican player playing in my homeland.”
The first batter Gallegos faced, outfielder Yasiel Puig, hit a home run, and several times after the game, Gallegos remarked how “on a personal level,” he would have preferred to have a spotless line in Mexico. The 27-year-old righthander from Obregon, Mexico, has represented the country in international tournaments, and his practice glove has the Mexican flag stitched into the side. He said he used it a couple times in games with the Yankees last year before the trade to the Cardinals.
Throughout the week, he has played host, travel guide and even participated as an ambassador for the Cardinals. He and lefty Andrew Miller took part in Saturday’s Play Ball event with local youths at the Estadio.
Gallegos got to a three ball count against Eugenio Suarez before striking him out and ending his outing. Miller replaced Gallegos to carry the eighth to closer Jordan Hicks, and after the game, Shildt beamed about the chance to get Gallegos into the series. “A special moment – to perform in front of your country,” he said.
And then came the question from a local reporter: How long will Gallegos stay in the majors?
“It’s one that is difficult to answer, quite honestly,” Shildt said. “He’s got the ability to pitch in the big leagues. I think he’s demonstrated that for sure. He’s a big-league talent. We also have some big-league talent on our Triple-A club that’s proven. He’s a big-league pitcher.”
BADER SLOWED, SIDELINED
To avoid running Harrison Bader into a more severe injury and lengthier recovery, the Cardinals rested their center fielder Sunday and will reevaluate his ailing right hamstring Monday, in Milwaukee.
Bader felt a “tightening” in his right leg during an eventful eighth inning Saturday against Cincinnati in the Mexico Series. Bader had an attempted diving catch, a throw from the warning track to third base, and another play where he sped to back up right fielder Tyler O’Neill and had to pivot quickly when the ball glanced off O’Neill’s glove. During that run, as he retrieved the ball, Bader felt pain zip through his leg.
The threat of a worse injury could slow him for a few days. “There is always that concern,” manager Mike Shildt said. “We feel we’re ahead of it. We’re getting the work in. It’s always a concern but it’s one that we’ve got a good grasp on.”
Bader said after Sunday’s game that the leg felt “way better.”
The Cardinals traveled to Mexico with additional medical support, including physicians, and they were able to put Bader through a series of exams Sunday. Shildt said the plan isn’t to have an MRI awaiting Bader when the team gets to Milwaukee for the start of a series there Monday. Bader was instead prescribed rest to see how the injury responds in the first 24 hours, and if a deeper look at the muscle is required, the Cardinals will adjust Monday.
The inning when the injury happened was an example of why the Cardinals put the brakes on Bader. In the span of five batters, Bader sprinted across the breadth of center field to attempt a diving catch. The ball glanced off his glove, and he scrambled to chase it to the warning track. From there, Bader unleashed a throw to third base that came just shy of stopping Phillip Ervin from a triple. Bader declined comment following the game.
Had he stopped Ervin at either end of that play, Bader’s catch or throw would have lived on in highlights. Instead they served Sunday as an example of Bader being in “100 percent compete-mode all the time,” Shildt said. And with so much of the center fielder’s game based around speed and his legs the Cardinals didn’t want to ask Bader to downshift due to injury.
“He’s not a self-regulator,” Shildt said. “Which is one of the reasons we appreciate him.”
CARLOS MARTINEZ ADVANCES
Back in St. Louis, Carlos Martinez completed and recovered from his first bullpen session since injuring his shoulder. Martinez threw 20 pitches — all fastballs — off the mound at Busch Stadium on Saturday. He sent Shildt a “super thumbs-up” emoji as a text about how he felt.
Martinez will repeat the same session, all fastballs, on Monday , and he will attempt to increase his pitch count. He’ll advance from a series of bullpen sessions to facing hitters in a live batting practice workout — similar to the schedule pitchers have in spring training.
By the end of the month, the Cardinals are likely to determine whether Martinez will shape his rehab program around returning as a starter or reliever. His ability to recover, day to day and handle an additional pitch count, will be a determining factor, as well as the team’s need. If they elect to use Martinez as a reliever, his rehab schedule would be shorter, his return sooner.
SHILDT: 26-MAN IS ‘IDEAL’ ROSTER
The series abroad allowed the Cardinals to add a 26th player to the active roster – infielder Yairo Munoz – and get a glimpse of baseball’s future.
In 2020, Major League Baseball will add a 26th man to all roster, and Shildt described how during the series in Mexico he’ll be able to do “lining up pinch-hitters” and “feeling more aggressive with pinch-hitters.” The breakdown of 13 pitchers and 13 position players that a 26-man roster invites, Shildt said, is his preferred roster.
“I actually think it’s great,” he said. “I think it’s an ideal number. I think it’s an ideal number especially for National League baseball – for strategy and for health. For pitchers, it makes sense to carry 13 especially in a National League setting. I think it makes sense to carry 13 to distribute innings, to make sure innings are being (managed) from a National League standpoint.”