The injury bug has bitten the Cardinals in the middle of an impressive stretch of baseball. There’s never an opportune time to deal with injuries but, nearing the end of a 20-6 August, St. Louis seems to be dealing with a slew of new health issues—primarily focused on the position player side, for once.
Of course, injuries aren’t new to the 2018 Cardinals. They’ve had 36 total DL stints this season, which is second-most in the majors to the Dodgers. RosterResource combines stint length with projected 2018 pre-season value to create a metric called Roster Effect Rating, attempting to quantify the impact of the season’s injuries on a team’s ability. To date, the Cardinals rank fifth in the majors, easily the highest in the division. You can find the full list here.
With nine players officially on the DL and a couple of injury scares in last night’s game, it’s worth checking in on the status of the injured players and noting when—if at all—they may be back to full strength. We’ll take a look at things chronologically, by stint length. Also, I’m not including Alex Reyes because we’ve all had to deal with that pain enough already.
Injury: Elbow Inflammation
Retro Date: 5/14
Wainwright has been dealing with elbow issues for quite some time now, missing games in the 2017 season for the same problem. Having been on the DL five times in a 12-month span, many were beginning to wonder if we’d see Waino at all.
Now he’s being stretched out as a starter, and looking pretty good doing it.
Wainwright has pitched 12 scoreless innings in five appearances with three affiliates in his rehab stint, his most recent outing coming on Monday when he threw four innings in a start with Memphis. He’s expected to make another start on Saturday, where his target is 75 pitches. His fastball velocity is sitting around 89-92 mph and he’s adjusted the curveball speed to accommodate that decrease. His command has been impressive, walking only two batters in his rehab. Where many—myself included—saw Waino coming back as a weapon out of the pen, it’s looking more and more likely that he may step back into the starting rotation.
Injury: Shoulder Impingement
Retro Date: 7/26
Gregerson struggled out of the gate with health concerns for the Cardinals this season. He began the year with a hamstring injury, missed time with an oblique issue, dealt with shoulder problems, had knee surgery, and has been back on the DL with a shoulder issue. In total, Gregerson has only thrown 12.2 innings for the Cardinals this season. He’s signed through next year as well on a relatively low-risk two-year, $11 million contract, but it seems apparent that Gregerson won’t contribute to the Cardinals again in 2018.
Injury: Fractured Foot
Retro Date: 8/4
Fowler was one of the first of many position player injuries to hit the Cardinals in August, and his seems to be the worst. After fouling a ball off his foot in an early August game against the Pirates in Pittsburgh, Fowler felt a pop running from second to third that would remove him from the game and lead to the diagnosis of a fracture. His 2018 season is essentially over, transferred to the 60-day DL some weeks later. Writers and bloggers in and around St. Louis will speculate on Fowler’s roster security when the Cardinals transition to the offseason—whenever that may be—but surely Fowler sees this season as one to forget as far as individual performance is concerned.
Injury: Strained Oblique
Retro Date: 6/21
Wacha seemed destined for an All-Star Game appearance when he was pulled from a start against Philadelphia in June. The pitch before he was pulled it was clear something was off and news of an oblique issue was particularly troubling, given the season-ending injury of Alex Reyes not one month earlier. Wacha has been rehabbing over the past two weeks but was abruptly pulled from a start with Springfield in the third inning. The official cause is fatigue, but it isn’t hard to speculate that the oblique issue might have been aggravated once again. It’s possible Wacha could come back in a relief role similar to Carlos Martínez but, if the oblique is troubling him, it’s hard to envision another start in 2018.
Injury: Shoulder Inflammation
Retro Date: 8/22
The Ozuna move was more of cautionary than anything, attempting to treat an ailing shoulder that had been an issue since the Cardinals acquired him from Miami. Put on the 10-day DL on August 22, Ozuna received a cortisone shot and is anticipated to rejoin the team on September 1 when rosters expand. Even manager Mike Shildt confirmed the move as a strategic one, quoted saying, “It will give him the freedom to compete the way he needs to compete.” It’s been clear just from watching his throws that Ozuna’s arm hasn’t been 100% this season, and the hope is that the cortisone shot will help the issue—at least temporarily—through a potential postseason run.
Injury: Strained Hamstring
Retro Date: 8/26
Just last week I wrote a piece making a case for Wong to not only win the Gold Glove, but the Platinum Glove as well. Three days later, he ended up on the DL with a strained hamstring after clutching his leg running to first.
So goes baseball.
Luckily, the Cardinals are optimistic that Wong’s strain was mild, expecting Wong to be ready to return from the DL when he would first be eligible on September 5. The move ultimately cleared a bench spot for the next week and a half as Wong rests. Rated currently as the best defender in the National League, the Cardinals can’t afford to have his glove out of the lineup through a stretch of meaningful September games—not to mention he has a 133 wRC+ in the second half.
Injury: Shoulder Inflammation
Retro Date: 8/26
As one pitcher returned from the DL, another one was placed on it. Dominic Leone was activated after missing the bulk of the season with nerve issues and Mike Mayers was moved to the 10-day DL to make room after Mike Maddux noticed an issue with Mayers in Colorado. Here’s an excerpt from Derrick Goold’s piece in the Post-Dispatch:
During the eighth inning Saturday, pitching coach Mike Maddux saw a dip in velocity from the righthander that was disconcerting. Mayers acknowledged that he had been sore the week before and hadn’t been used in the several days since, only warmed up. Mayers described the injury as a nerve concern or a fatigue issue.
Mayers is set to be evaluated on Monday, where the severity of his injury will be determined.
Injury: Strained Groin
Retro Date: 8/29
Gyorko has had his share of groin injuries over the years. He was clearly in discomfort as he ran to first on a ball initially called a home run and overturned. When placed at second, he was replaced with John Gant as a pinch runner, an early indication that the injury was severe.
Jennifer Langosch reported that Gyorko called the injury more severe than others he’s experienced, which could mean very bad news regarding a 2018 return. He was put on the DL with a similar injury in 2013 and was out for nearly five weeks. Gyorko’s bat has been hot in the second half of the season as he’s gotten more consistent playing time and regained his power stroke, now with 115 wRC+ on the season.
After leaving the game last night with nausea, the salsa jokes began. News came from Mike Shildt today, as reported by Jim Hayes, that Carpenter is dealing with a 24-hour virus—a relieving update given the state of the Cardinals’ infield and Carp’s MVP candidacy.
Injury: Elbow, Ribs
After being hit in both the elbow and ribs, and being shaken up, Muñoz seemed to be adding to the growing list of middle infielders on the DL. Jeff Jones reported today, again from Mike Shildt, that Muñoz is fine aside from soreness.