This story is taken from John Denton’s Cardinals Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. When apply It arrives regularly in your inbox.
When the Cardinals faced a possible rainout in last March’s Grapefruit League Night game against the Astros, the schedule was changed, with Albert Pujols, Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, Yadier Molina and Tyler O’Neal batting during the day. has been moved. A practice session at the Spring Training Complex in Jupiter, Florida.
The surprise pitcher in that impromptu BP session was minor league flamethrower Gordon Gracefo, who turned 22 a few days ago and was looking to finish a promising season in Single-A Palm Beach. Getting that chance was pretty daunting, but it speaks volumes that the Cardinals thought about the possibility. What happened next were a few moments that set him on a path that might lead him to the big leagues this season.
Graceffo used the adrenaline rushing through her veins to regularly hit 98 and 99 mph with her radar gun. It was memorable enough, but smashes by Arenado (huge home run) and Goldschmidt (on the opposite field ground his rule his double) stood out the most for Gracefo.
“It’s a confidence boost when an organization puts you in that position,” said Gracefo, the Cardinals’ fifth-round pick in the 2021 draft. “I’m happy to get rid of some of them.” I called to let you know.you tell them Arenado took you 450 [feet] Away from the walls of the facility, it’s interesting. A few things happened on social media, and a lot of my teammates and friends reached out and said, ‘That’s crazy! “
Fresh off a 10-6 record with 139 strikeouts in 139 1/3 innings at High-A Peoria and Double-A Springfield in the 2022 season, Gracefo hopes this spring training draws more attention to him. increase. A push to the Cardinals roster. Although he prefers to be a starter, Gracefo said he’s willing to work in relief, using his swing and miss material from the bullpen that St. Louis desperately needs.
“I think if we do as well as last year, we have a good chance of starting for a big league team,” said Gracefo, who has experience with Villanova in his freshman season and 2021 relief at Palm Beach. rice field. “No matter where I start, they’ll put me in the best place. I’ll make the most of it.”
Graceffo’s fastball, which has been bumped up to the Cardinals’ desired 230 pounds, regularly hovers in the 95-98 mph range, hitting 100 mph several times last season. One example was his final start in 2022. In a double-A Springfield masterpiece, he retired the first 17 batters, took a complete game in the sixth inning, and stole nine.
“That night was one of those nights where everything felt right and you could put the ball where you wanted,” he recalled. “Once you’ve done that, you’ve got to capitalize it. That was a great ending.”
That performance, combined with what Gracefo did during an impromptu outing with the Cardinals’ top slugger last spring, made the hard-throwing right-hander the shot to make the opening that Baseball Operations President John Mozeliak noted after the season. It may have played a role that it would have. day roster.
Villanova’s manager at Gracefo, former Cardinals draft pick, Twins and D-backs pitcher Kevin Mulvey, told the flamethrower years ago that he had the ingredients to go to the majors. rice field. Now that opportunity seems to be in his Graceffo hands.
“In Double-A, you have legitimate hitters and players who are successful in the big leagues. Once you get that level, everything is going well and you’re really confident,” he said. “This is a stepping stone, part of a journey, and we hope to take the next step this spring.”