Helping New Cardinal MacDougal Keep Number 48

Unexpected personal involvement in uniform number reassignment for new St. Louis Cardinals reliever Mike MacDougal.

Let me say right up front that this is a more personally-oriented article than I usually run here. It is an unusual situation to become even a minor part of any story, but that is precisely what happened Wednesday.


First, let's get the official transaction information out of the way. After all, that is the main reason this post is here:


  • On Wednesday, the St. Louis Cardinals purchased the contract of right-handed reliever Mike MacDougal from Triple-A Memphis.


  • In the corresponding move, the Cardinals optioned right-handed reliever Fernando Salas to Memphis.


In a side note, the Cardinals' 40-man roster is again at its limit. Dropped to 39 when Josh Kinney was outrighted on July 3, I assumed the spot would be used when Kyle Lohse will be activated off the 60-day disabled list. Now, another move will be required to clear room when Lohse is ready to officially rejoin St. Louis.


Now that we have the formalities out of the way, here is my small story behind the story.


When we arrived at New York's Citi Field on Wednesday afternoon for the second of a three-game series, we weren't sure what the lead stories of the day would be. All the clever introductory questions were asked to manager Tony La Russa and general manager John Mozeliak the day before. Without an injury or trade to report, it had the early appearance of a quiet day.


Soon that all changed with the news that MacDougal's contract had been purchased by the Cardinals from Triple-A Memphis. The first questions were simple. Is he at the ballpark? Who is he replacing on the roster?


I headed downstairs to the Cardinals clubhouse at 3:30 p.m. but had to wait until 3.40 to get in. In the meantime, the tall and slender MacDougal was out in the main concourse on his cell phone. Of course, I couldn't query him then.


Once inside, my first step was to study the Cardinals lineup card, taped to the clubhouse wall by bench coach Joe Pettini as it is every day. FOX Sports Midwest's Jim Hayes had already tweeted the day's lineup. I skipped over that to scan the list of available relievers. MacDougal was there, but no Fernando Salas.


Just ahead and to my right sat the "missing" Mr. Salas at his clubhouse stall as always. He seemed in no hurry to go anywhere.


A quick check with a club staffer solved the mystery. The timing of the moves precluded booking a flight that day for Salas to return to Memphis for the fourth time this season, so with the major league club he remained for one day, at least physically. After throwing 41 pitches the night before, Salas would be of no immediate use to La Russa and Dave Duncan, anyway.


Up came the fresh arm, MacDougal, who last pitched for Memphis on Monday. After's B.J. Rains and I were the first of a group of writers to converge on his clubhouse stall to get his reaction, MacDougal patiently answered the same questions several times as new waves of media arrived.


He was excited to be here. He was with his wife after Memphis' game on Tuesday when he learned the news, etc…


I must admit that it is different covering a game with a colleague and friend like Rains. As he stood next to me recording the same comments from the new pitcher and sitting by me while later capturing La Russa's reaction to the move, I wondered what I could add to the story. The reality is not a lot, so head over to to read B.J.s MacDougal article. I can assure you, all the quotes are real! 


Standing around in the clubhouse trying to decide how I might write about the change, I started up a bit of chit-chat with Cardinals equipment manager Rip Rowan, a professional to the nth degree.


In fact, it was a continuation of a conversation from the previous day that was truncated when Mozeliak decided to meet with the media. Rank has its privileges. The subject with Rowan had been Cardinals uniform numbers.


As I have harped on for seemingly years now, I am against the retirement of certain numbers, but that is neither here nor there today. What is relevant is that Rowan is one of the many who has to deal with all the changes, with the temporary ones as much or more problematic than the permanent ones.


Between retired numbers, the ones currently in use and those being reserved, Rowan is quite limited in his options to assign numbers to new arrivals such as MacDougal.


Informally reserved numbers vary from ones like number 51, not used out of respect for Willie McGee to the late Darryl Kile's 57 to the number 40 worn by Memphis' P.J. Walters. After all, if/when Walters returns, it would be preferable for him to get his number back, which also keeps it from being given to another player in the interim.


When given a heads up about MacDougal's possible arrival late Tuesday night, Rowan made a quick assessment of the situation, assigning staffers to sew "MacDougal" on the back of a properly-sized number 63 jersey so it would be ready the next afternoon.


As I looked at the "63" above MacDougal's stall, I re-opened the uniform number discussion with Rowan. He reiterated his limitations in deciding which pair of digits to bestow upon MacDougal.


Among the informally reserved numbers Rowan cited was number 48, worn by veteran lefty Rich Hill in spring training. It also happened to be the number that Hill wore in Memphis prior to his release on June 30.


Understandably busy with the myriad of tasks for which he is responsible every day, Rowan missed the news that Hill had left the organization and of course that MacDougal had assumed Hill's old number 48 upon signing with the Cardinals and joining Memphis. Therefore, Rowan didn't know that he no longer had to keep aside 48 with St. Louis.


Once I told Rowan about Hill's departure, he quickly huddled with the newest Cardinal to discuss a number change. MacDougal readily agreed, which was good to see. After all, some players have strong opinions about such matters.


There was not enough time to make the change on Wednesday and with a day game on getaway Thursday, the decision was made for MacDougal to become Cardinals number 48 upon the club's return to St. Louis. In the meantime, he will be number 63, last worn in the regular season by another reliever, Chris Perez, in 2008.


I was proud of myself for imparting the Hill news until one clubhouse wag dampened my spirits by only-half jokingly observing "MacDougal will only be number 48 if he makes it to St. Louis…" in reference to the frequent changes in the Cardinals relief staff recently.


He had a point. This month alone, there have been at least eight different transactions affecting Cardinals relievers including Adam Ottavino, Evan MacLane, Walters and of course, MacDougal and Salas.


Like Hill, MacDougal had an opt-out clause in his contract if not in St. Louis, but the date was still out in the future, he disclosed on Wednesday.


Time will tell if the Cardinals' eighth relief transaction of the month will be their last. 

Brian Walton can be reached via email at Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Selected TCN content also appears at Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2010 The Cardinal Nation, and All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The Cardinal Nation Top Stories