Cards promote Scruggs to add depth at first base

Right-handed-hitting slugger had 21 homers and .864 OPS at Triple-A

Cards promote Scruggs to add depth at first base

MILWAUKEE -- Xavier Scruggs joined the Cardinals on Thursday to give the club additional coverage at first base behind Matt Adams, who sustained a mild left oblique strain during Wednesday's win over the Pirates.

Scruggs, 26, was set to be among the organization's second wave of players called up when Triple-A Memphis' postseason run ended. However, the Cardinals felt pressed to speed up that timetable when they arrived in Milwaukee with Adams' availability questionable. Since dealing Allen Craig to the Red Sox, the club hasn't had a true backup behind Adams at first.

"Clearly, when you have a series of this magnitude, having somebody who plays a position regularly like Scruggs does just seems to make natural sense," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said. "I always hate taking players from Memphis in the postseason, but at this stage it just felt more important."

While Adams has struggled in recent weeks, the oblique issue is a new one. He felt the tweak during an at-bat on Wednesday. Still, it comes at a time when the Cardinals were prepared to give him a few days off to address potential fatigue. Since hitting a home run on Aug. 22 (his first homer in more than a month), Adams has been on a 5-for-44 skid. He's collected one extra-base hit and struck out 14 times during that stretch.

"It was about that time where it looked like he'd need a couple days, regardless of health," manager Mike Matheny said. "He was just kind of fighting himself at the plate a little bit. Hopefully, that's something that he can work on, too, is clearing his mind and working on his swing thoughts as much as anything else."

Matheny confirmed that Adams has had no recurring trouble with his right elbow, which bothered the first baseman each of the last two seasons.

Scruggs, who learned he'd been called up after Memphis dropped its playoff game on Wednesday, batted seventh in his Major League debut on Thursday night.

"It was weird because we lost the game and I was kind of in a bad mood because we lost," said Scruggs, who will wear No. 59. "But it was great to get the most exciting news that you could get as a baseball player. It just turned my day around. It definitely surprised me. I was hoping to get the opportunity, but I didn't think it was going to come at this time."

Scruggs, who went 0-for-3 and committed an error in his debut during the Cards' 3-2 victory, spent the entire 2014 season with Memphis, where he hit .286/.370/.494 with 29 doubles, 21 homers and 87 RBIs. He ranked fifth in the Pacific Coast League in RBIs, seventh in runs scored (82) and 14th in extra-base hits (53). Scruggs ended the PCL regular season by hitting safely in 38 of his final 50 games. Scruggs hit .350 against left-handed pitching this season, compared to a .259 mark against righties.

"It was a season's worth of improvements, just trying to get more consistent as a hitter," Scruggs said. "That came with a change in approach and changing my swing, in general. I'm trying to be shorter to the ball, put it in play more and just take what the pitchers gave me."

Those changes started during Spring Training, when Scruggs took advantage of his time in big league camp to watch the approach and preparation of more established players. It was during spring, too, that he caught management's eye.

"When you think back to Spring Training when he showed up, he was just in tremendous shape," Mozeliak said. "He really prepared himself for a big year, and he had it."

"We had a feeling we might see him at some point this year, and he had a strong season with a very good August," added Matheny. "Hopefully, he can jump right in and do something to help us."

The Cardinals moved outfielder Shane Robinson from the 15-day to the 60-day disabled list to clear a roster spot for Scruggs. The club also moved Michael Wacha off the 60-day DL and back onto the 40-man roster in advance of his start on Thursday.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.