St. Louis Cardinals left fielder strained his quad while chasing after a fly ball during the club's loss to the Colorado Rockies on Monday night at Coors Field. On Tuesday afternoon, the Cardinals surprised no one by placing Holliday on the 15-day disabled list and recalling righthanded reliever Miguel Socolovich from Triple-A to bolster a relief corps sapped by an 11-3 Coors Field special on Monday. Placing Holliday on the DL told us that the left fielder will be out for at least two weeks, but it did not reveal the extent of his quad tear. That came Tuesday evening:
INJURY UPDATE: Matt Holliday was diagnosed with a Grade 2 Right Quad Strain.— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) June 9, 2015
It's important to remember that a "strain" is a "tear." It's just a question of degree. So how bad is a Grade 2 quad tear? Here is the National Institutes of Health on the different degrees of quad strains:
Grade 1 strains represent minor tearing of muscle fibers with only minimal or no loss in strength. Pain is usually mild to moderate with no palpable defect in the muscle tissue on exam.
Grade 2 strains involve more severe disruption to the muscle fibers with significant pain and loss of strength. A defect in the muscle tissue may sometimes be felt.
Grade 3 strains are a result of complete tearing of the muscle with associated severe pain and complete loss of strength. A palpable defect in the muscle tissue can frequently be felt, especially if examined at onset of injury prior to hematoma formation.
You'll recall that first baseman Matt Adams suffered a Grade 3 quad tear, which necessitated corrective surgery that may very well end his season. Holliday's quad injury is not as severe as the one Adams sustained. This is good news. Holliday will miss time, but he will not (at least as of now) require corrective surgery and it appears likely that he will return yet this season. This is not the best news imaginable but it isn't the worst either.
General manager John Mozeliak participated in a conference call with media members regarding the injury. Here are some tweets generated by the call early Tuesday evening:
Mozeliak says Holliday has been diagnosed with Grade 2 quad strain, #stlcards expect to have better idea of his timetable in a few weeks.— Jenifer Langosch (@LangoschMLB) June 9, 2015
Mozeliak: Holliday "doesn't have a complete tear at all..... this can heal" .... "cleaner" injury than Tommy Pham— KMOXSports (@KMOXSports) June 9, 2015
Mozeliak: we weren't surprised by the MRI readings, "glad it wasn't worse" #STLCards— KMOXSports (@KMOXSports) June 9, 2015
For those who might suspect that Mozeliak is being cagy about Holliday's timetable to return to the lineup, consider this piece by Stephania Bell at ESPN, entitled "Baseball Injuries 101: Sprains, strains, and other pains." Bell explains:
Strains are assigned a grade of I (mild), II (moderate) or III (severe), and a strict timetable for return to play with any grade is impossible to nail down. Teams rarely reveal the extent of an athlete's muscle injury, which often can't be precisely determined anyway (except in the case of a complete tear). But there are some guidelines to follow in case more information is given.
A mild strain is often not even noted as a formal injury but might be as simple as a player feeling the leg "tighten up." A Grade I strain suggests there is either no or minimal visible damage to the muscle fibers, but there is microtrauma, which can result in pain and inflammation. The athlete might miss up to two weeks, or he may not miss any time at all. A Grade II strain suggests definitive damage to the muscle itself and has the widest range of deficit and time lost. A Grade III strain reflects a complete tear of the muscle (there might be a few fibers that remain intact, but for all intents and purposes, the muscle has been disrupted). This severe injury typically results in surgical repair for a major muscle group like the quads or hamstrings, as was the case for Indians outfielder David Dellucci, who tore his left hamstring from the bone in 2007.
Muscle strains are generally tricky customers as far as injuries go and Grade 2 strains are particularly difficult to offer a prognosis on. So when Mozeliak says the organization will have a better idea of when Holliday might return to game action in a few weeks, he's telling the truth. Right now the Cardinals probably don't know when Holliday will be back. The Cardinals will monitor Holliday's health and likely give us update down the road. For now, though, we'll just have to wait until club and player have a better idea of when he might heal enough to play again.
With Holliday's torn quad, the Cardinals' once-crowded outfield picture has thinned out. Socolovich on the roster represents an extra reliever and one less outfielder. Manager Mike Matheny will be forced to juggle Jason Heyward, Peter Bourjos, Jon Jay, and Randal Grichuk, as Craig broke down on Tuesday morning while fearing for the worst. For what it's worth, Mozeliak is talking about Grichuk in much the same way the general manager was Oscar Taveras last summer:
Mozeliak: "Grichuk will get a chance to play more and let's see if he takes advantage of it" #STLCards— KMOXSports (@KMOXSports) June 9, 2015
I've updated the 40-man roster matrix to reflect today's machinations.