Cards summon Poncedeleon to cap comeback

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ST. LOUIS — Last May, Daniel Poncedeleon lay on the ground on a Triple-A field in Iowa, that close to his Major League dreams and suddenly fighting for his life. On Monday, he walked into the Cardinals’ clubhouse, capping a remarkable recovery and one of the best comeback stories in baseball this year.

The arrival of Poncedeleon comes on the heels of a splendid two-month stretch at Triple-A Memphis, where the 26-year-old right hander went 5-2 with a 2.41 ERA across 12 games (11 starts). It also comes 13 months removed from a career-threatening brain injury suffered last May, when a Victor Caratini comebacker struck Poncedeleon in the right temple, fracturing his skill.

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ST. LOUIS — Last May, Daniel Poncedeleon lay on the ground on a Triple-A field in Iowa, that close to his Major League dreams and suddenly fighting for his life. On Monday, he walked into the Cardinals’ clubhouse, capping a remarkable recovery and one of the best comeback stories in baseball this year.

The arrival of Poncedeleon comes on the heels of a splendid two-month stretch at Triple-A Memphis, where the 26-year-old right hander went 5-2 with a 2.41 ERA across 12 games (11 starts). It also comes 13 months removed from a career-threatening brain injury suffered last May, when a Victor Caratini comebacker struck Poncedeleon in the right temple, fracturing his skill.

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Poncedeloen required an emergency craniotomy to repair an epidural hematoma — bleeding from his brain — followed by weeks of rehab and three months of inactivity. He returned to game action this spring, wearing a carbon fiber insert under his hat to prevent reinjury. A former ninth-round pick out of Embry-Riddle University in 2014, Poncedeleon was awarded the Bob Bauman “Physical Comeback Award” from the St. Louis Chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in January.

“Perseverance will be part of his biography one day,” Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said this spring. “Think about it. Worst-case scenario, he could have not survived. Best-case scenario is where we are today.”

With his first appearance, Poncedeleon, who will wear No. 62, will become the fifth player to make his MLB debut for the Cardinals this season. He’s the 23rd pitcher summoned to St. Louis. The Cards used 25 pitchers all of last season. To make room for Poncedeleon on the active roster, Luke Voit was optioned to Memphis in a corresponding move.

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.

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