The Cardinals announced the following series of transactions in recent days:
8/18/21: Placed RHP Justin Miller on the 10-day IL (right ulnar nerve irritation). Recalled RHP Junior Fernandez from AAA Memphis.
The Cards have not used the Memphis shuttle as much this season with the pitching as in years past, but to the extent they have, Fernandez has been one of the pitchers used. At the time of this move, Fernandez pitched an almost equal number of games for the Cards (13) as he has for AAA Memphis (14). About the only things he did well for the Cards were to keep the ball in the yard and get groundballs at a reasonable clip. His other peripherals were atrocious, as he walked over 15% of the batters he faced, but only had a 13% strikeout rate. In addition to having a hard time finding the plate, his sinker has been way too hittable, with the slash stats on the pitch—both regular and expected—being off the charts. Out of 30 batted ball events on the pitch, 14 have gone for hits. Fernandez hasn’t had this problem in AAA, as he’s struck out one-third of the batters he’s faced to only a 7.6% walk rate. He has allowed 3 homers in 14.1 AAA innings. Twelve out of his fourteen games came in one stretch between May 29th and July 20th. He was basically used as the last man in the pen, pitched in mop-up duty and went down on the 20th, so the club could go from a 10-man pen to a 9-man pen.
The Cards claimed Justin Miller on outright assignment waivers from the Washington Nationals on July 3rd. In 14 games over 12 innings so far, he’s been kind of “meh.” He’s had a low strikeout rate, given up about a hit per inning, hasn’t walked a lot of guys, but has given up a few homers as well. We don’t know how long he’ll be out, but an ulnar nerve issue doesn’t sound like something you come back quickly from.
8/20/21: Placed RHP Ryan Helsley on the 10-day IL (right elbow stress reaction), retroactive to August 17th. Activated RHP Miles Mikolas from the 60-day IL. To make room on the 40-man roster, placed LHP Brandon Waddell on the COVID-19 Related IL. 40-man roster still full.
Jeff Jones reported that Helsley actually hadn’t been available out of the bullpen for the four days prior to this move because of this injury and that Shildt described it as something like a bone bruise. Like with most of the recent Cardinal pitcher injuries, the club does not see anything structurally wrong with his arm, and might actually expect Helsley to miss close to the minimum time. In case you’re wondering about what a stress reaction is, I found this interesting article written by someone with a medical background that discussed the diagnosis of Yu Darvish with a stress reaction in his elbow back in 2018. I’m not a doctor, but a reading of that article suggested to me that five or six days of rest wouldn’t typically be enough.
Jones also reported GM Michael Girsch’s comments that Waddell hasn’t felt well enough to pitch since he was cleared from his positive COVID diagnosis earlier. You can check out my earlier articles on the confusion of whether there is actually a COVID-19 Related IL for the minor leagues or not here, here, and here. This time, although Waddell’s personal transaction page says he was placed on the AAA Memphis 7-day IL, not the Memphis 60-day IL, the official Cardinal home page and Jeff Jones both describe this move as a placement of Waddell on the COVID-19 Related IL. So I may have been right after all that the COVID-19 Related IL is a list that both major and minor league players may be placed on. Either way, that move opened up a 40-man roster spot for Mikolas.
Mikolas came back to make last night’s start after 5 minor league rehab appearances across 3 different levels. Across 24.1 IP, Mikolas allowed 24 hits and 3 homers, but struck out 17 batters to 4 walks. This move puts the Cards with a full complement of 5 starters, but only an 8-man pen and a 5-man bench.
Wainwright, Flaherty, Lester, Mikolas, Happ
Cabrera (L), Fernandez, Garcia, Gallegos, McFarland (L), A. Miller (L), Ponce de Leon, Reyes
Knizner, Carpenter, Sosa, J. Rondon, Dean