ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- Despite the loss of Matt Carpenter for what looks to be at least a month, the Cardinals did get a silver lining Thursday.
Aledmys Diaz, the 25-year-old Cuban rookie, was named to the All-Star team in Carpenter’s place.
“It’s pretty emotional,” Diaz said at his locker before Thursday’s game. “The last three months have been pretty crazy with what’s happened.”
Indeed, the rookie has had a wild ride. A year ago, he was bumped off the 40-man roster and cleared waivers in the minors. In 2016, he’s gone from Triple-A shortstop to possible fill-in following Peralta’s injury, to everyday player and now, to the All-Star Game.
It has been a stunningly rapid ascension to stardom for the Cardinal shortstop, and his inclusion in the Midsummer Classic will make him a national name if he’s not already.
“This will give Aledmys the kind of recognition he’s due,” Matheny said. “I think that’s the kind of story that needs to be talked about. To remind everybody [in the locker room], because that’s what we’re asking of some of our players right now.”
Diaz got his shot when Tommy Pham hurt himself in the first game and the Cardinals needed a bat. With Reuben Tejada (signed to fill in for Peralta) on the disabled list, he got a start at short and never looked back.
In April he had a .423 average and a 1.186 OPS. He cooled in May and his numbers normalized, but heated back up in June and July.
“It’s part of the process. It’s a long season and I know the pitchers are going to make adjustments in the second month,” Diaz said.
At the time he was announced as the All-Star replacement for Carpenter (Thursday morning), the Cuban led all NL shortstops in batting average (.319) and OPS (.916). When Matheny got the bad news on Carpenter Wednesday night, he called NL All-Star manager Terry Collins. The Cardinal skipper explained his leadoff man would miss the game, and lobbied for Diaz as a deserving replacement.
In the wake of a string of injuries in the past week, the Cardinals are desperately hoping someone follows Diaz’s example. With Carpenter out indefinitely, a new bat must emerge to help buoy the offense.
“Opportunity. What are you going to do with it? Don’t let anyone limit you. That’s the story of Aledmys Diaz right now. He had that little chance and he jumped in. He had a crack in the door and he kicked it. He’s refusing to let it shut and that’s really how most people get the start of their career in this business,” Matheny said, drawing a correlation between the current state of the Cardinals and the place they were when Diaz broke through.
The 25-year-old’s rookie season has been a triumph thus far, capped with a chance to rub elbows with the very best in the sport. Growing up in Cuba, Diaz wasn’t able to watch the All-Star game, but ever since seeing his first one a few years ago, he knows how special it is.
“It’s pretty cool. To say I played with [those guys] for one game. It’s pretty exciting for me to be part of that,” he said. “To be part of the last season for David Ortiz. To be part of that moment.”
The Cardinals still have only one player in the All-Star game, but expect both Carlos Martinez and Seung Hwan Oh to have a shot at inclusion as certain pitchers drop out.