The St. Louis Cardinals have parted ways with a once-promising pitcher.
Daniel Ponce de Leon entered the regular season in the St. Louis Cardinals rotation, partly because of injuries to Miles Mikolas and Kwang Hyun Kim. But manager Mike Shildt trusted him enough to start games and envisioned him sliding into the bullpen once Mikolas and Kim returned.
At first, it worked. Ponce de Leon threw five innings of one-run ball in a victory against the Miami Marlins on April 5, throwing 83 fastballs in 93 pitches, completely bypassing a curveball that had been effective for him in the past. He struggled after that, failing to hit the strike zone consistently, and went from the rotation to the bullpen to getting into an argument with star catcher and future Hall of Famer Yadier Molina.
Ponce de Leon’s struggles had him on the periphery in the Cardinals’ bullpen equation. The incident with Molina sealed his fate in St. Louis, as the team designated Ponce de Leon for assignment on Monday and recalled Brandon Waddell from Triple-A Memphis.
There will be team’s willing to take a chance on Ponce de Leon. After all, he has shown some potential in the past (2.73 ERA in 11 games in 2018; 3.70 ERA in 48.2 innings in 2019). But this is a move that the Cardinals needed to make, parting with a player who could disrupt their positive momentum as they are surging toward a postseason spot, and his performance this season (6.21 ERA in two starts and 22 relief appearances) warranted.
Waddell, who will replace Ponce de Leon on the active roster, was plucked off waivers from the Cardinals earlier this season. He is a week removed from being on the injured list and will step in as the team’s No. 4 left-handed reliever, with the other options being Andrew Miller, Genesis Cabrera and T.J. McFarland being the other options.
Waddell will join the Cardinals, who begin a crucial series against the Brewers in Milwaukee on Monday, and should factor into the bullpen equation at some point. Ponce de Leon, meanwhile, should land with another team soon, but as far as the Cardinals, the move to designate him for assignment was an addition by subtraction.