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|Hoffpauir makes jump to St. Louis|
PHOTOS BY TRACEY BRUCE
It was a week Jarrett Hoffpauir will never forget.
The Vidalia native ended June by being named the St. Louis Cardinals' minor-league player of the month.
He began July by being promoted to the Cardinals and coming through with a game-winning hit in his major league debut.
"It's been pretty surreal," Hoffpauir said. "It really hasn't set in yet."
The 26-year-old Hoffpauir hit .327 with seven home runs and 20 RBIs for Class AAA Memphis in June to earn the Minor League honor.
"I actually didn't hear about that until I got up to St. Louis," Hoffpauir said. "The trainer congratulated me and told me."
Hoffpauir spent spring training with the Cardinals in Florida.
Hoffpauir was hitting .276 with the Memphis Redbirds, and was leading the Cardinals' triple-A team with 10 home runs. Injuries to Cardinal players played a big role in the move.
Joe Mather, Hoffpauir's former roommate in Memphis, recently underwent his third wrist operation
Infielder Mark DeRosa was placed on the 15-day disabled list by St. Louis on Tuesday, 10 days after the Cardinals acquired the coveted versatile player in a trade with Cleveland.
The Cardinals placed Khalil Greene back on the disabled list after the infielder suffered a relapse in his battle with social anxiety disorder.
Hoffpauir got the call on July 1 that he was to catch a plane out of Albuquerque and head to St. Louis where a St. Louis policeman would meet him at the airport and take him to Busch Stadium.
"We got into Abuquerque late from New Orleans and Coach (Chris) Maloney told me to meet me in his office," Hoffpauir said of the Memphis manager. "I was thinking, 'Oh boy, this is either going to be really good or really bad.' I have been with Coach Maloney for a couple of years so we're pretty close. He told me, 'I've got some news for you. You have been traded.' And I asked him where I was going. He told me, 'You're going to the St. Louis Cardinals.' He gave me a hug and we had a big laugh out of that."
On July 1 against San Francisco in the city of the Gateway Arch, only hours after arriving in St. Louis, Hoffpauir was called to pinch hit for Chris Duncan, but manager Tony LaRussa called him back in the dugout.
"I had the adrenaline going," Hoffpauir said. "They had a left-hander in the bullpen, but they stayed with the right-hander, so he called me back in. I had to settle back down again."
Colby Rasmus would then hit a walk-off home run in the 10th inning to win the game for the Cardinals.
On July 2, Hoffpauir was told to take the field at second base in the ninth inning against San Francisco.
"My knees were shaking," Hoffpauir said as he sprinted to second base. But then LaRussa called him back to the dugout.
"I went from a real high to a real low," Hoffpauir said. "But they tell me Coach LaRussa is like that. You just have to be ready at all times."
On July 3 in Cincinnati, Hoffpauir entered the game against the Reds in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter for Duncan.
"I kind of knew I would get to play because they have a lot of left-handed pitchers," Hoffpauir said.
He walked on four pitches from Arthur Rhodes.
"I was glad of that because I was so nervous I could not even put pine tar on my bat," he said. "I just told myself to step back and calm down. It was the same game, just a lot more people in the stands. I saw the first two pitches were balls and took the next two. Getting that first at-bat out of the way was big for me."
Reds starter Homer Bailey had been brilliant, retiring 13 consecutive batters at one point and going from the first until the seventh without allowing a base hit. He got into trouble in the eighth, though, with Colby Rasmus' pinch-single starting the uprising. After Brendan Ryan flied out, Skip Schumaker drew a walk, chasing Bailey. The Reds turned to Rhodes to face the left-handed Chris Duncan, but La Russa summoned Hoffpauir to make his Major League debut. The youngster drew a walk to load the bases, and the Reds called on righty David Weathers to face Pujols despite Pujols' 9-for-18 career mark against Weathers. On a 2-2 pitch, Pujols jumped on a fastball and drilled it 391 feet into the left-field seats for the 10th grand slam of his Major League career to give St. Louis a 4-3 lead. It was also his 350th home run in the big leagues, making him the third-youngest player to get there. Only Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr. reached 350 at an earlier age. Yet the Cardinals still hadn't secured the win. Hoping not to use closer Ryan Franklin, they turned to Josh Kinney rather than one of their usual eighth-inning pitchers, Kyle McClellan or Jason Motte, and Kinney got in trouble. He surrendered two hits to open the inning, and it took Dennys Reyes and Motte to escape the jam without giving up more than one run.
In the top of the ninth with the game tied at 4-4, Hoffpauir was the hero as his two-out, two-run single over shortstop in the top of the ninth gave the Cardinals the deciding runs in a hard-fought 7-4 win.
"I don't even remember getting to first base," Hoffpauir said.
Rasmus had started the inning off with a single against the left-handed Daniel Ray Herrera after the Reds retired the first two St. Louis batters. Ryan followed with a single, and Schumaker reached on an error by shortstop Paul Janish. Hoffpauir got his first big league hit and RBI on an 0-1 pitch, placing it perfectly in shallow left field. Pujols followed with an RBI double for insurance.
"That's the kind of situation you've dreamed about since you were a kid," Hoffpauir said. "Albert had called me over and told me just relax. He told me Herrera's best pitch was his change-up. He told me to stay on it and try to hit it as hard as I could somewhere. I fell behind 0-1 as he threw me a fastball. I was thinking, 'Here it comes, his best pitch.' I was a little in front of it, but luckily I placed it where nobody could get it. I wanted to come in and help the team win however I could. Luckily, I got a hit tonight that helped us out."
Hoffpauir was giving television interviews after the game when catcher Yadier Molina gave him a handful of shaving cream across his face.
"That's something you see on TV all the time and for it to happen to you is pretty cool," Hoffpauir said.
Hoffpauir grounded out and popped out Saturday, playing an unfamiliar place at third base in the late innings.
"They asked me if I had ever played third base," Hoffpaiur said. "I told them I didn't have a lot of experience there, but it's still a matter of catching and throwing the ball, just keeping it simple."
After grounding out and popping out on Saturday, Hoffpauir was a pinch-hitter for Chris Carpenter Sunday in the eighth inning, drawing a walk in his first at-bat against Carlos Fisher.
Hoffpauir then entered the game at second base and collected a double off the wall against Fisher in the ninth inning. The hit was a few feet from the top of the wall.
"He was having trouble with his off-speed stuff, so he was throwing a lot of fastballs," Hoffpauir said. "I just got a decent pitch to hit. Albert told me after the game, 'Hoffy, me, you in weight room tomorrow morning.'"
Former LSU outfielder Nick Stavinoha and shortstop Brian Barden were both recalled from Triple-A Memphis on Tuesday, replacing DeRosa and infielder Tyler Greene on the 25-man roster.
"Hopefully I can stay up here a little while," he said. "I want to help this team win a title. If I get sent down, I'm OK with it. I'll just see what happens. Hopefully I opened some eyes. Getting that first taste has been beneficial. I know what to expect and it will not all be new. It's out of my control and I try not to think about it."
St. Louis is hosting the All-Star Game on Tuesday, July 14.
"That's pretty cool, but I've got kind of a dilemma," Hoffpauir said. "I don't know whether to stay here or head back to Memphis. I'm living out of my suitcase because I haven't been able to pack anything. Everything is still a learning process. I'm learning how things go around here and what you have to do as a rookie. It can get kind of stressful as far as what you can and cannot do as the new kid on the block.
"Luckily I played with some of the guys in Memphis and I attended spring training," Hoffpauir added. "The guys have really been great about helping me out with any questions I have. But it's still a profession. And there are still certain rules to go by as a rookie. I'm learning all of that. And it's been great."
|Frank Morris Murder Series|