The St. Louis Cardinals announced injury news regarding ace Adam Wainwright and catcher Yadier Molina before Monday's game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Then, Stephen Piscotty's collision with Peter Bourjos in left-center field overshadowed the game and the relatively good news the Cardinals divulged earlier in the day. Returns from the disabled list and even the National League Central race melted away. All that remained were hopes and prayers that Piscotty would be okay and that sick feeling in the pit of one's stomach when one has seen a brutal sports injury.
After the top of the seventh inning, manager Mike Matheny removed Matt Holliday, who is working his way back from his second quad tear of the season. The speedy Peter Bourjos took Holliday's place in the outfield. Matheny moved Jason Heyward from center to right and Piscotty from right to left. With that St. Louis defensive arrangement in the outfield, Josh Harrison strode to the plate to face Kevin Siegrist.
Harrison lifted a flyball to deep left-center. It was a well-struck ball that caused foreboding off the bat. Harrison's hit looked like trouble. That gut reaction proved true, but for a very different reason. Bourjos was off like a shot at the crack of the bat. So was Piscotty. Both outfielders hit full speed and dove for the ball near where the grass ends and the warning track begins in the deepest part of PNC Park. And that's where Piscotty's face met Bourjos's knee at full speed.
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. That's physics. It's also baseball. And I've rarely wished that was less so than when Bourjos and Piscotty met at full-speed in the PNC outfield. It was a collision remiscient of the gridiron, only worse. Piscotty wasn't wearing a helmet of the type that prevents bone fractures but not concussions and Bourjos had no kneepad on. Piscotty's face was bloodied, his body limp, unable to respond to Bourjos's attempt to rouse him.
Bourjos immediately signaled for the training staff. Jason Heyward appeared at the scene of the collision and commanded Piscotty not to move. Medical personnel surrounded Piscotty, strapped him to a body board, and carted him off the field. Thankfully, Piscotty waved on his way off the field. It was the silver lining on a jet black cloud.
Chris Hrabe of KMOX relayed the initial diagnosis:
Official word from #STLCards : "Piscotty suffered head contusion...being taken to local hospital for further exams."— Chris Hrabe (@chrabe) September 29, 2015
This came shortly after Piscotty left the field. This type of diagnosis is common immediately following a player's exit. Given Piscotty's condition, it was expected. As the Pittsburgh broadcasting crew noted, there is an ambulance in the right-field corner at PNC and that is likely where the medical staff took Piscotty. There likely wasn't much time for a diagnosis at the ballpark or the means to make a meaningful one.
After the conclusion of the Cardinals' win over the Pirates, we got heartening news from the Cardinals' official Twitter account and Alyson Footer of MLB.com:
All test results conducted on Stephen Picotty at hospital were negative. He will be held overnight for observation— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) September 29, 2015
Initial scans on Piscotty negative. Matheny says it's looking good, he's going to be sore, but otherwise should be ok.— Alyson Footer (@alysonfooter) September 29, 2015
Basically means no brain bleed or severe neck injury. This DOES NOT rule out a concussion. https://t.co/AZjrPq7xk8— Aaron Gray, M.D. (@MizzouSportsDoc) September 29, 2015
So Piscotty is not 100% out of the injury woods yet. He might have a traumatic brain injury that hasn't been diagnosed or has been diagnosed but has not been reported.
Prior to the seventh inning of Monday night's game, the "bad" injury news the Cardinals received regarded Molina's injured left thumb. You'll recall that the day after Molina sprained his thumb in Chicago, the Cardinals were optimistic that he might return yet this season. Here's a sampling of that positivity from a week ago Monday:
The tone was more guarded this time around. Doctors have ordered another week of rest for Molina. That means he's out for the remainder of the regular season, the 162nd game of which will be played on Sunday.
While the news is not the best, it is also not the worst. Molina still might be able to return to game action in the postseason. Winning the division title would allow him a few more days to rest, like a cherry on top of the NL Central Threepeat Sundae.
Finally, some unadulterated good news. Wainwright felt good after his simulated game over the weekend. Brian Stull of STL Baseball Weekly posted audio of Wainwright's full comments with his post on the subject. Here's a taste:
"Much better–it felt like me out there today, so that was incredibly uplifting," stated Wainwright afterwards. "My leg feels great. My arm was solid, rebounded great. Nice to be out there facing big league hitters."
Wainwright threw 27 pitches to six hitters, which included one hit, four strikeouts, and no walks by the right-hander’s account. He was also able to test out his defensive breaks off the mound.
"The tests we’re doing, the drills we’re doing, the agility work and all that stuff work with Pete Prinzi is so much harder than covering first a couple of times," said Wainwright. "They’ve tested me to the max this last week everyday. Covering first now is no big deal at all."
St. Louis Post-Dispatch beat writer and host of the resurrected Best Podcast In Baseball Derrick Goold tweeted:
If Wainwright reports to ballpark tomorrow with no issues after today's exertion he expects to be cleared for game. Could see him by Wed.— Derrick Goold (@dgoold) September 28, 2015
So there you have it. Wainwright could be back as early as this week. Piscotty is apparently okay, all things considered. Molina is out for at least another week, but may be able to return to play in the postseason.
Correction: The original version of this post identified Seth Maness as the pitcher. Siegrist was on the hill. And the collision occurred in left-center, not right-center. It has been corrected.