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Cards Sign Reliever Mike MacDougal

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The Cardinals, in a bid to try and add some depth to a suddenly creaky bullpen, have signed former closer Mike MacDougal to a minor-league contract after he was released earlier this season by the Washington Nationals. He was pitching for the Nationals' Triple A club, and had not appeared in the major leagues this season after saving 21 games for Washington last year. 

MacDougal joined Triple A Memphis, where he'll likely spend most of his time with the Cardinals. Hopefully he's here to serve just as depth in the minors as the Cards use some of their more promising arms to bolster the major league 'pen. 

I honestly only really remember two things about Mike MacDougal: one, he used to throw really hard, and two, his hat always flew off a lot when he pitched. (Which may not seem like much, but it does tell us not only could MacDougal probably stand to buy his hats a size smaller, but he also jerks his head around a lot when pitching, likely leading to a lack of command.)

I'm not exactly dancing in the aisles with joy over this move; after all, when you can't crack the Washington Nationals' roster and they release you outright, that's not exactly an indication of sterling performance. On the other hand, MacDougal was an effective reliever as recently as last year, and if his stuff is still intact, he could add another power arm to the Cards' stable. 

The problem with MacDougal is his control; or rather, the distinct lack thereof. Even at his best, MacDougal was always a guy who walked too many hitters, and he's been nowhere near his best for quite a while now. Last season, even while posting a 3.60 ERA and saving 20 games for the Nationals, he walked as many hitters as he struck out, 31 of each in 50 innings. He's also never struck out nearly as many batters as one would expect, considering the quality of his stuff. Only once in his major league career, in 2005 with Kansas City, has he ever struck out more than a hitter per inning, surprising for a guy who could consistently pump his fastball up close to triple digits. He has always been a groundball pitcher, which probably has quite a bit to do with the Cardinals' interest in him. 

MacDougal made his debut already with Memphis last night, giving up two runs in his one inning of work. Not exactly encouraging, but he also hadn't pitched in about two weeks, so it's probably not wise to draw too many conclusions based on his first game. 

I don't expect MacDougal to make much, if any, impact on the Cards' bullpen this season. He could soak up a few innings, though, if he can regain any modicum at all of even his earlier control. 

Or he and his veteranness could just serve to bury Fernando Salas and Eduardo Sanchez at Triple A all year as the major league coaching staff runs him out to the mound to toss napalm on any and all situations, Esteban Yan style. 

I'm just going to pretend that thought didn't cross my mind. I suggest you do the same. 

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