January 30, 2023

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Gorman joins Cards greats with latest homer

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CHICAGO — Before Cardinals rookie Nolan Gorman elicited ooh’s and aahh’s — the kind that only come when a player crushes a no-doubter that lands well up the bleachers at Wrigley Field — the rookie slugger had to endure the barbs and laughs in the dugout on Friday.

Gorman, a 22-year-old who has played just 11 MLB games, is supremely confident, but he also isn’t anywhere near the most effusive player in the Cardinals’ clubhouse — not with his words or his emotions.

When the left-handed-hitting second baseman whiffed in his first two at-bats on Friday — the first two at-bats he had taken since Monday when his lower back started to stiffen and knocked him out of the lineup for three days — Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol looked to be a pressure reliever for a clearly pressing Gorman. Marmol wouldn’t be specific about what he said to Gorman, but it elicited a big smile and laugh from the usually serious-minded Phoenix native.

“What I’ve enjoyed the most about it with him is he comes in after his second punchout and we go back and forth a little bit and he’s able to laugh at himself,” Marmol said candidly. “After that, he’s able to go out there and get something done because he’s slowing the game down. He’s in a good spot.”

The third home run of Gorman’s career landed in a good spot for the Cardinals — approximately 424 feet away from where it left the rookie’s bat at 104.6 mph. The three-run home run propelled St. Louis to a 14-5 win over the rival Cubs on a day when the Cards piled up 15 hits and five long balls.

Gorman, who didn’t miss Marcus Stroman’s 91 mph fastball over the middle of the plate on a 3-2 count, became just the fourth Cardinal in franchise history to have at least three home runs in the first 11 games of his MLB career. Albert Pujols (2001) and Joe Cunningham (1954) had four home runs in 11 games, while Tyler O’Neill (2018) hit three in that same period. Similarly, Gorman had historians scrambling through record books after bashing the third 400-foot home run of his young career.

Admittedly, Gorman was a tad surprised to receive a verbal jab from Marmol after striking out with Harrison Bader and Tommy Edman on base in the third. As it turns out, Gorman admitted, the light-hearted moment with his skipper was just what he needed.

“We had a little bit of a laugh, and it really lightened the mood and helped me relax,” Gorman admitted. “After that, I was able to go out there and continue to do what I’ve been doing.”

Gorman has been punishing pitches in the zone that either find the seats (three home runs) or gaps (three doubles). He did that earlier this season when he hit 15 home runs at Triple-A, and he did it before at Wrigley Field when he peppered the scoreboard with dingers during the Under Armor All-American Game in 2017. That day, he won the Home Run Derby, and Friday’s blast was his latest majestic clout at the historic park.

“Impressive is a good word,” said Cardinals’ star Paul Goldschmidt, who had a three-run home run of his own on Friday to extend his on-base (39 games) and hit (25 games) streaks. “The other day, when he went double and home run, he’s got legit pop. All three home runs and some of the other balls have been hit hard. It’s nice to have a guy who at any moment can hit a ball out of the park.”

Gorman is one of nine Cardinals to make their MLB debuts this season. A team with three of the oldest players in baseball — 42-year-old Pujols, 40-year-old Adam Wainwright and 39-year-old Yadier Molina — also has gotten a noticeable bump from youngsters such as Gorman (.361 average and a 1.133 OPS), Brendan Donovan (.296 average, more walks than strikeouts) and Andre Pallante (1.07 ERA in 17 games). On Friday, Zack Thompson was the latest Cardinal to make his MLB debut and he pitched four innings for a save. He was the first Cardinal in nearly 65 years to record a four-inning save in his MLB debut.

“Young guys are full of energy, they’re fun to have around and fun to mess with,” said starter Miles Mikolas, who picked up his fourth win on Friday. “It’s been good for us.”

Marmol messed with Gorman on Friday because he knew the rookie could handle the ribbing. Gorman is also ready to handle being back in the field and will start one of Saturday’s two games at second base.

“We went back and forth there a little bit and I’d say he handled it well,” Marmol noted.

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