Top Prospects: Sam Freeman, LHP, Cardinals

ST. LOUIS -- After leaning heavily on their bullpen in Monday's 17-5 loss, the Cardinals added a pair of fresh relievers prior to Tuesday's game against the Cubs.

Left-hander Sam Freeman -- the Cards' No. 20 overall prospect -- and righty Jorge Rondon joined the big league club as part of a roster shuffle that also sent Eric Fornataro back to Triple-A Memphis. Fornataro's demotion was due mostly to circumstance (not results), as the Cardinals knew he would be unavailable for at least a day after throwing 39 pitches in two innings on Monday. Randy Choate, who threw 35 pitches on Monday, is also hands off for at least a night.

Fornataro made seven appearances -- and a positive impression -- during his first opportunity at the Major League level.

"I was really pleased with how he threw in getting his experience up here," general manager John Mozeliak said. "So I think he benefited from that, and hopefully he'll grow from it."

In finding relief for the big league 'pen, the Cardinals went about identifying who was both fresh and pitching well in Memphis. Rondon hasn't thrown since Friday; Freeman last pitched Saturday.

This is a second callup for Rondon, though he has yet to make his Major League debut. After returning to Memphis in late April, Rondon allowed one run on nine hits and one walk in 9 1/3 innings. He struck out six.

Freeman, who has made 37 appearances for the Cardinals over the past two seasons, had a string of six scoreless outings at the time of the callup. Overall, he had allowed seven earned runs on 22 hits and six walks in 16 2/3 innings. He is stretched out to pitch multiple innings, if needed.

"[I] just wanted to work on throwing strikes and attacking the zone, and I was able to do that," Freeman said. "Just trying to simplify things and getting back to attacking hitters, letting my stuff do the work."

Mozeliak calls Cards' start to season 'concerning'

STL@ATL: Mozeliak discusses injury updates, Taveras

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals will hit the quarter-mark of their season after Tuesday's game, and yet will reach it no better than a .500 club. It's a sobering place to be for the defending National League champs, who were a preseason heavy favorite to repeat as division winners.

General manager John Mozeliak went so far as to describe his club's start as "concerning" during a candid session with the media on Tuesday.

"I still think this is a talented club and I still believe in it," Mozeliak said. "But having a belief in something is far different than actually getting it done. I think right now it's still early in the season where you can't hit the panic button. But you've got to see the trend line change a little bit. ... I think the [19-20] record reflects how we've played, certainly."

Manager Mike Matheny, a perpetual optimist, was similarly blunt as he addressed the state of his team following a 17-5 rout by the Cubs on Monday.

"I think our record might be a little better than what the product looks like," Matheny said. "I think we're fortunate to be where we are record-wise with how we've played, and the guys would agree with that. We've seen some really good. I still don't think we've seen as good as we can be. What matters to us is the consistency of good, and that we certainly haven't seen."

The underachieving has been the result of several different issues. For one, the Cardinals have been unable to sustain positive momentum, seen again with Monday's loss. The team has yet to sweep a series and has only one winning streak of more than two games.

Relief pitching, particularly in the middle innings, has been porous. Good starting pitching has been wasted by an unreliable offense, one that has struggled to extend leads and erase deficits. That offense, Mozeliak said, will be something the Cardinals address internally (think: Oscar Taveras, Kolten Wong, Randal Grichuk, etc.) and/or externally (the non-waiver Trade Deadline) if the results don't improve.

"I can't imagine us just doing nothing all season and just say our strategy is you're going to rise up to your mean," Mozeliak said. "For us, there are some things we want to be sensitive to. The month of July is an opportunity to maybe change the look of your club if you have to. The clock's ticking, but it's not in a panic mode or a reactionary place where you have to just do something to do something. I think people have to be aware that this is not acceptable baseball at this point."

The Cardinals, who have a run differential of plus-three, are averaging 3.7 runs per game, one run fewer than the club averaged through 39 games last year. And a year after hitting an historic .330 with runners in scoring position, the Cardinals have a .237 average in such spots.

"It seems like it's getting more consistent, but it's still not at that level where you felt we were going to be when we broke camp," Mozeliak said. "I think that's one of those self-reflection moments. Players have to look at themselves, the staff needs to look at themselves. We all have to see where we are on this."

Motte throws clean inning in first rehab appearance

Jason Motte allowed just one hit and was in the 91-95-mph range.

ST. LOUIS -- In his first rehab appearance with Triple-A Memphis, Jason Motte threw 14 pitches (10 strikes) in a scoreless inning on Tuesday. He allowed one hit, a pop fly single lost in the sun.

After Motte's outing, general manager John Mozeliak confirmed that the right-hander, who is nearing the end of his Tommy John rehab, will make another appearance with Memphis on Thursday. The Cardinals will consider having him throw two innings next time out. Motte's fastball velocity on Tuesday, according to the reports Mozeliak received, registered 91-95 mph.

"Given where he's coming from, I think that's OK," Mozeliak said. "But when he was at his best, he was someone [throwing] 97, 98."

The Cardinals remain uncertain as to when Motte will wrap up his rehab assignment and rejoin the big league bullpen. Asked if it could be by the end of the weekend, Mozeliak left the door open for a more fluid timetable.

"I think Motte is still sort of day to day in terms of determining when we could possibly see him," he said. "I'm not in a place of high confidence to tell you when he might pitch."

Jaime a candidate to start Saturday for Cards

Jaime Garcia allowed two runs and fanned five in five innings Monday.

ST. LOUIS -- Left-hander Jaime Garcia is a candidate to start on Saturday now that the Cardinals need a new fifth starter, general manager John Mozeliak said shortly after the club placed Tyler Lyons on the disabled list.

Garcia threw 74 pitches in a five-inning Triple-A rehab start on Monday. It was his first extended outing since beginning his rehab assignment, as Garcia's first start ended after two innings when he was hit by a pitch. Though Garcia may not yet be ready to eclipse 100 pitches in his next start, the Cardinals may not see that as a necessity for his first start.

The Cardinals will monitor how Garcia recovers from Monday's outing before finalizing that Saturday starting assignment. Garcia is scheduled to throw his between-starts bullpen session on Wednesday, though it had not yet been determined whether he will do that in Memphis or under staff watch in St. Louis.

"I want to know how he feels," Mozeliak said. "He threw very well last night. Reports of how he pitched were extremely positive. More importantly, it's going to be how he feels from a physical standpoint. But I am encouraged."

Mozeliak identified left-hander Tim Cooney as another starting candidate should the club choose to have Garcia pitch one more game in the Minors. Cooney is 4-2 with a 2.94 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in eight starts for Memphis. He is not yet on the club's 40-man roster.

Lyons lands on DL with left shoulder strain

STL@ATL: Lyons yields three hits, strikes out seven

ST. LOUIS -- Though he did not use shoulder discomfort as an excuse for a poor start, Tyler Lyons, a day after allowing nine runs in four innings, was placed on the disabled list by the Cardinals with a left shoulder strain on Tuesday.

Lyons said he felt nothing unusual over the first two innings, during which he allowed seven runs. There was some soreness in the third inning, he said, and it then increased when he returned to the mound to warm up for the fourth.

"You deal with stuff on and off throughout the season, but that was the first time I felt it toward the end of the game," he said. "Early in the game, I felt really good. I felt really good in the bullpen. I felt good the first couple innings. It just kind of came after that."

Lyons said he has already had some preliminary tests on the shoulder and that an MRI was to be administered at some point. The Cardinals' medical staff was also scheduled to further examine Lyons later Tuesday afternoon.

"I don't think they anticipate anything being serious," he said. "We're just trying to be cautious and go through the steps and see what it is and where we need to go from here."