By the time a Major League Baseball team tells the media (and, by extension, fans) about a pitcher arm injury, things are already pretty bad. The notification usually starts off as something vaguely troubling, which the pitcher typically plays down. Then there's the graduation to the disabled list with a somewhat less vague description of the health issue. Sometimes there are tests. On occasion, the tests are followed by the seeking of a second opinion. And before you know it the pitcher is out for multiple months. This has been the trajectory of the St. Louis Cardinals' disclosure of information about reliever Jordan Walden's shoulder injury.
- May 2: According to Brian Stull at STL Baseball Weekly, manager Mike Matheny revealed that the Cardinals got Walden "hot and it didn't feel right." Also per Stull, Walden said he was "not concerned" about what he described alternatively as shoulder "stiffness" and "barking."
- May 3: The Cardinals placed Walden on the 15-day DL with "right biceps inflammation," a roster move retroactive to April 30.
- May 5: Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com reported that general manager John Mozeliak revealed the Cardinals are seeking a second opinion of the MRI that doctors performed on Walden's shoulder in order to determine whether the righty would require corrective surgery or a more conservative course of treatment.
- May 6: The Cardinals announced that Walden will miss 6-10 weeks with a torn muscle in his shoulder area. Neither Langosch, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jim Hayes of Fox Sports Midwest, nor KMOX—all of whom tweeted the news—identified the specific shoulder muscle that is torn. Presumably, since the Cardinals placed Walden on the DL with 'right biceps inflammation," the tear is to his biceps. Per Langosch's tweet, Walden will not require surgery before beginning a throwing program after his convalescence.
As we've distanced ourselves from the November trade between the Cardinals and Atlanta Braves, the deal has taken on a binary description: Jason Heyward for Shelby Miller. It's understandable, given the prominent nature of the two players and their respective 2015 performances to date. But Walden was an important component of the trade. The former closer, a proven late-inning righthander, allowed St. Louis to shift Carlos Martinez from the 2015 relief job for which the organization had earmarked him to the starting rotation.
Already down ace starter and innings-eater Adam Wainwright, the Walden injury further weakens the St. Louis pitching staff. In addition to an increase in the bullpen's innings workload after the injury to the staff workhorse, the Cards now face the loss of the pitcher they expected to gobble up most of their highest leverage innings—at least for a couple months, and perhaps longer.
Walden had pitched very well during the season's opening weeks. Matheny called on Walden 12 times for 10 1/3 innings. He K'd 28.6% of the batters he faced, a rate matching that of his career, while walking 9.5% of the opposition, a nice reduction from his most recent seasons. Walden posted a 0.87 ERA (24 ERA-), 1.95 FIP (52 FIP-), and 2.99 xFIP (79 xFIP-). His 0.4 fWAR in April as a Cardinal was half of what he accrued in 2014 with the Braves. The righty was valuable.
The ripple effect throughout the relief corps has already been seen this week. On Wednesday afternoon, Goold tweeted the news of the result which RB and I speculated about on Sunday's VEB Podcast episode: Mozeliak indicated eighth-inning setup duties will now go to trusted righty Seth Maness. This means Maness will likely more often be entering games with the bases empty instead of with men on the bases, as the groundball-inducing fireman Matheny has deployed the righty as in years past in hopes of getting a rally-killing double play. Time will tell if the reassignment means Matheny abandons calling on Maness with men on base in the seventh and the Cards in need of a double play.
At present, the St. Louis bullpen consists of the following eight relievers:
- Trevor Rosenthal, RHP
- Seth Maness, RHP
- Mitch Harris, RHP
- Miguel Socolovich, RHP
- Carlos Villanueva, RHP
- Matt Belisle, RHP
- Randy Choate, LHP
- Kevin Siegrist, LHP