Matt Svanson, wearing a Springfield Cardinals uniform, pitches the baseball during a game
As the Springfield Cardinals make a late-season push for postseason play, Matt Svanson has emerged as the team’s closer with five straight scoreless appearances out of the bullpen. (Photo: PJ Maigi, Springfield Cardinals)

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Dare we say there is playoff fever in the air at Hammons Field? 

The Springfield Cardinals opened their final home series of the season Tuesday night at Hammons Field with a 9-1 victory over Tulsa, then defeated the Drillers 5-2 Wednesday, adding some intrigue to the home stretch.

Springfield has won 10 of its last 13 to draw within one game of Wichita in the Texas League North Division second-half standings. Four games remain on the homestand with six more next week at San Antonio. The second-half North winner faces first-half winner Arkansas in a best-of-three division series.

Newcomer Svanson stepping into void created by Granillo’s promotion

If the Cardinals play some extra baseball, their new closer could be a big reason. After Texas League saves leader Andre Granillo was promoted a couple of weeks ago to Triple-A Memphis, relative newcomer Matt Svanson has embraced the role.

Coming to the St. Louis organization at the trade deadline from Toronto in exchange for shortstop Paul DeJong, the 24-year-old right-hander has not allowed a run over his last six appearances while collecting four saves.

“It took him a little bit to get adapted and now he has embraced the closer’s role well,” Springfield manager Jose Leger said. “I definitely like his arm.”

Svanson said he’s fitting in with his new organization after the initial shock over the trade. He said he had a premonition that he might be dealt when Toronto shortstop Bo Bichette went down with an injury. While scrolling Twitter (now the social media platform X) he saw DeJong mentioned as a possible replacement.

Sure enough … 

“I got a call from my GM and was like, ‘There’s no way.’ He called and told me” about the trade, Svanson said. “It was definitely a shock. It was a weird day or two because I went from being around everybody I knew to like, ‘Hey, you’re going somewhere where you don’t know anyone. Here you go, good luck.’ It was definitely interesting.”

Adapting to a new organization

The next 24 hours he spent calling friends and family and just processing the situation. He had just been called up to Double-A Vancouver and, before even getting into a game there, he was on the move.

A native of Lake Zurich, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, he wasn’t even sure where the Cardinals’ affiliates were located. 

​​“The next day when I was traveling I started to look stuff up,” Svanson said. “I was told I was going to Springfield. I’m from Chicago so I’m kind of familiar with the area a little bit, which is nice. I ended up knowing a few guys through a mutual friend. It’s interesting how small the baseball world is.”

After the initial shock wore off, Svanson started to look at it as a new opportunity for an organization that desperately needs pitching. 

“That was the thing,” he said while noting that he had to adapt to “different philosophies, different equipment. Everything is different. So trying to adapt and shape what I’ve known the last two years in the Blue Jays organization … it was definitely a change. But it feels pretty comfortable now.”

Matt Svanson, wearing a Springfield Cardinals uniform, pitches the baseball during a game
Matt Svanson said he was surprised when he was traded from the Toronto organization to the Cardinals in exchange for shortstop Paul DeJong at the trade deadline, but he’s settled into his surroundings after a bit of a rocky start with Springfield. (Photo: PJ Maigi, Springfield Cardinals)

Sinker, slider are Svanson’s specialties

Svanson, an imposing presence at 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds, has impressed Leger with his hard sinker and slider.

“He’s got a good sinker that he gets up there at 96, 97, 98 (miles per hour) at times with a good slider,” Leger said. “He’s a two-pitch pitcher who fills the strike zone. He does well vs. both righties and lefties.”

Svanson said he throws his sinker to both sides of the plate and the slider for strikeouts. 

“My attack pitch is my sinker and I get a lot of groundouts with it,” he said. “My slider is more my put-away pitch, or if I feel like they’re sitting on my slider I’ll go back to the sinker.”

After allowing runs in four of his first five appearances for the Cardinals, Svanson said he’s learning the art of pitching as he faces Double-A competition. 

“Hitters are a lot more patient and mature, able to sit on pitches when you make a mistake,” he said. “It’s learning how to be a better pitcher in a sense, how to read situations and execute pitches when you need to. Working ahead in counts. 

“It’s kind of stuff that was always a point of development in the lower levels, but you could get away with it with good stuff. Here, even with good stuff, you might not be able to get away with that.”

Pro baseball wasn’t always on Svanson’s radar

The 13th-round draft choice in 2021 out of Lehigh University appreciates getting his shot at pro baseball, considering the sport wasn’t always on his radar. He went to Lehigh — where his parents, grandfather and uncle are alums — for academics.

“My sister has ended up going there, too,” Svanson said. “It was the only place I got recruited to go. I pretty much had to ask to be on the team. I went there for academics and asked ‘Can I try to play baseball here?’ I got a shot and just kind of developed in my four years there.”

And now here he is, a Chicago-area native who grew up rooting for the Boston Red Sox, in Springfield trying to make his mark with the Cardinals. He’s already thinking ahead to spring training 2024, where he hopes to impress in his first Cardinals camp.

“I live down in Tampa now so I’ll just work out at the facilities there, live life, get stronger and hope to throw harder,” Svanson said of his offseason plans. “Just be ready for spring training next year. That’s the goal.”

Before that, he hopes to close out a few more Springfield victories and maybe even get some postseason experience. 

Cardinals at Hammons Field this week

Tuesday — Springfield 9, Tulsa 1

Wednesday — Springfield 5, Tulsa 2

Thursday — 6:35 p.m. vs. Tulsa (End of Season Celebration Fireworks)

Friday — 7:05 p.m. vs. Tulsa (Mercy fleece pullover, first 2,000 fans; Friday Night Fireworks)

Saturday — 6:35 p.m. vs. Tulsa (Albert Pujols 703 bobblehead, first 2,000 fans; Mega Fireworks Extravaganza)

Sunday —  4:35 p.m. (Free ticket voucher, all fans; Closing Day Fans on Field Fireworks)

Tickets — Visit the Hammons Field box office or the Springfield Cardinals website

Lyndal Scranton

Lyndal Scranton is a Springfield native who has covered sports in the Ozarks for more than 35 years, witnessing nearly every big sports moment in the region during the last 50 years. The Springfield Area Sports Hall of Famer and live-fire cooking enthusiast also serves as PR Director for Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Missouri and is co-host of the Tailgate Guys BBQ Podcast. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @LyndalScranton. More by Lyndal Scranton