The Cards’ bench is about to get an upgrade.
According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, outfielder Allen Craig has been cleared to shift his minor league rehab assignment from High-A Palm Beach to Triple-A Memphis, the final step before rejoining the big league roster.
Craig has been on the disabled list since the start of the regular season due to November knee surgery, but he’s had full range of motion for well over a month and should be sufficiently geared up for major league at-bats as soon as he’s made active.
Craig, 27, batted .315/.362/.555 with 11 homers and 40 RBI in 75 games last summer before slugging four homers alongside a 1.013 OPS in the Cardinals’ magical postseason run. He should see regular action in right field this year on days when Carlos Beltran is either resting or feeling spry enough to play center.
Bryce Harper has, in recent years, declined participation in the Home Run Derby, with his last go at it coming in 2013, losing to Yoenis Cespedes in the final round. With the All-Star Game taking place at Nationals Park in Washington, however, he has changed his mind, saying today that he will compete if he is selected for the All-Star team.
Harper is currently second in voting among National League outfielders, so he stands a pretty good chance of making it. Even if he falls off in the voting, you have to assume that the powers that be will nudge NL manager A.J. Hinch to select Harper as a reserve, partially because of his actual power — he does have 19 homers so far this year — but mostly for his star power.
Simply put, you know dang well that both Major League Baseball and the Nationals want a home town guy with big time star power in the Derby, even if he’s not having as good a year as he’s capable of. As such, figure to see Harper hitting long balls in D.C. on July 16.