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The kids are alright: Cardinals rookies help buoy offense, bullpen through tough stretch of games

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The Cardinals core is struggling mightily. Losers in six of their 11 games and owners of an offense that seems to have trouble getting started, most of their primary players have fallen below early season expectations.

Paul DeJong has already been sent down to the minors after hitting a mere .197, with another three teammates not reaching the Mendoza line and only five Cardinals hitting above .250. The Cardinals offense has only been able to muster more than two runs in half of their games this season, which puts them in a precarious situation looking ahead at some of the probable pitchers they may face.

The bright light of the Cardinals offense appears to be those who are newest to wearing the Cardinals uniform and playing in major league games.

Brendan Donovan and Juan Yepez have seized roles in the Cardinal lineup and are providing a stabilizing presence.

Donovan, who was called up on April 25, has been slotted in as an everyday shortstop since DeJong was optioned to AAA Memphis. Hitting .318 in 14 games with 1.035 OPS and just one error in the field, he has reached base safely in nine of his last 11 plate appearances and has only struck out four times while tallying five RBIs.

The flexibility Donovan has provided is an extra weapon manager Oli Marmol has been able to utilize. After multiple games at shortstop, the defensively flexible Donovan was slotted into third base in Saturday's game to give everyday hot corner mainstay Nolan Arenado a "day to get off his feet," Marmol said.

The more recent call-up, Yepez has appeared in 10 games and is hitting .382 with two home runs, three doubles, and has reached base safely in all 10 of his games. He's the first Cardinals player to debut in the major leagues doing so since 1988; Arenado and Matt Holiday also accomplished the feat when making their first appearances as Cardinals. 

Both players have essentially forced Marmol's hand into giving them playing time based on the quality of their performance.

"It's been very helpful," Marmol said of the two rookies before the Saturday afternoon game with the San Francisco Giants. "The energy they bring outside of just their production has been helpful too. I've enjoyed the competitive nature of both of their at-bats, and just the way they've gone about it has been good. But there's no denying that they've contributed at a high level."

Meanwhile, in the bullpen, rookie Andre Pallante and Jake Walsh have been essential to the staff's success in their appearances thus far.

Pallante broke through in spring training and has been excellent in his 10 appearances to the tune of a 1.20 ERA and nine strikeouts. The newer call-up, Walsh has now dipped his toes in the waters of the major leagues and has proven his muster. Through two games and 2.2 innings pitched, Walsh picked up where he left off in AAA and struck out five while allowing just one hit.

The Cardinals have been fortunate to have their rookies contribute in notable ways. The team will be formidable when the veterans return to form, if they keep it up.

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