The St. Louis Cardinals have the best record in baseball as MLB enters play on May 11. But the Cardinals have had to overcome a string of injuries while achieving their 22-9 tally. While Adam Wainwright is lost for the season with an Achilles tendon injury and may not be ready for opening day 2016, the other St. Louis injuries are less serious. On the club's first off-day in three weeks, it's time to update ourselves on where the various Cardinals who have been placed on the disabled list (or on "day-to-day" status) are in their respective recoveries.
Manager Mike Matheny pulled Carpenter from the Cards' May 3 contest with lightheadedness. After the game, Carpenter indicated that he was fine and would be good to go. He was true to his word; he played the next three games against the Cubs, going 1-for-12 with a homer, two walks, and three strikeouts. Matheny gave Carpenter the game off against Jon Lester in the Chicago series finale. Then the club announced that Carpenter did not travel with the team to Pittsburgh due to "extreme fatigue." He stayed in St. Louis to rest because of lightheadedness, dehydration, and an accelerated heartbeat, as reported by Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. On Saturday, Goold relayed that Matheny expects Carpenter to join the club in Cleveland on Tuesday:
Matheny reiterated the team’s expectation that Carpenter, given four consecutive games off, will rejoin the team Tuesday in Cleveland, ready to play. Carpenter experienced dizziness, trouble sleeping and an accelerated heart rate last week. Matheny said the team’s first suspicion was a virus, but that wasn’t found via tests.
The team did run a battery of tests on Carpenter to determine if he was dealing with a cardiovascular issue, and when asked about that Saturday, Matheny said he "hasn’t heard one thing like that."
Regardless of whether Carpenter rejoins the club on Tuesday or when Matheny pencils him into the starting lineup, it will be interesting to see how the manager handles his All-Star third baseman. Will Matheny require Carpenter to take more days off than he did in 2013, 2014, and the opening weeks of 2015? Or will it be back to the grind?
Update: General manager John Mozeliak held a conference call with the media on Monday afternoon and announced that Carpenter will rejoin the Cardinals on Tuesday in Cleveland. Here's an example of one of the numerous tweets on the subject:
#stlcards GM John Mozeliak confirms that 3B Matt Carpenter will rejoin the team in Cleveland tomorrow.— Jenifer Langosch (@LangoschMLB) May 11, 2015
Grichuk missed the start of the Cardinals' spring-training exhibition slate because he strained a muscle in his back while doing squats. The slugger altered his workout routine but to no avail. Grichuk strained a muscle in his back again, according to MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch, while doing squats during a pregame weightlifting session:
"In spring, I knew why it happened. I felt the squat. I felt that I used too much back. I knew what was going on there. But this one, the form was great. Everything was going smooth. There wasn't a lot of weight. I don't know why or what caused it."
An MRI exam taken on Saturday confirmed that Grichuk strained muscles around the lower discs in his back. He has not participated in any baseball activity since the initial injury. The Cardinals can backdate his DL stint to Thursday, the date of his most recent appearance. Grichuk has two hits, including a homer, in 10 at-bats this season.
The reaggravation of Grichuk's back injury while performing the same weightlifting workout prompted Matheny to declare that the outfielder will have to revamp his workout routine moving forward, writes STL Baseball Weekly's Brian Stull:
"This one snuck up on him a couple times now," acknowledged Matheny. "He’s going to have to do things probably radically different but that’s something he takes a lot of pride in. We like watching the ball jump off his bat–that didn’t happen from him sitting around playing video games. He’s been working hard in the weight room. That’s part of why the ball jumps for him."
The Cardinals dispatched Grichuk to extended spring training in Juptier, Fl. on Friday in hopes of getting him some plate appearances during the weekend's games. However, according to Goold in Monday's Post-Dispatch, that plan didn't come together:
Outfielder Randal Grichuk (lower back strain) was unable to play in extended spring training games as planned because of weather issues and soreness he attributed to travel, according to Matheny. Grichuk is in Jupiter, Fla., to get at-bats so that the team can determine whether he needs a rehab assignment or not before returning to the majors.
Grichuk is nearing a return. It's just a question of whether he'll get a rehab stint first or not. It appears that we'll find out this week.
The Cardinals placed Gonzales on the seven-day minor-league disabled list on April 22 with a shoulder issue. This rendered him unable to join St. Louis to take the rotation turn of the injured Wainwright. Gonzales made his first start since hitting the DL on Saturday for Memphis. On a pitch count, the lefty posted the following line: 54 pitches, 2 1/3 IP, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 SO, 1 BB, 5 H.
The Post-Dispatch's Rick Hummel was in Memphis for Gonzales's start. Hummel described the southpaw's injury as an "inflamed left pectoral muscle" and gave the following assessment (which wasn't as rosy as Gonzales's take):
But it appears Gonzales, who is on the Memphis roster, is going to need at least another start and probably more before he would be a candidate to be brought up. His fastball velocity got into the low 90s, and he threw some effective changeups. But, though two of the five hits he allowed were scratch singles, there also was some hard contact against Gonzales, who didn’t strike out anyone and had trouble commanding the fastball, pitching behind in too many counts.
Given the pitch count the Cardinals had Gonzales on (apparently, right around 55 pitches), it seems like a second start was always likely (if not another two or three) to get him stretched out properly for when the organization recalls him to join the St. Louis rotation.
It is perhaps unnecessary to remind folks that Garcia has had each of his last two seasons ended by surgery. In 2013, it was rotator cuff and labrum repair—each a procedure that can be career-ending. Last season, Garcia went under the knife for thoracic outlet release surgery—a procedure that has become infamous as a career-ended for pitchers. Nonetheless, the southpaw put together a solid spring training and appeared poised to break camp as a member of the St. Louis rotation until shoulder issues derailed his comeback bid and landed him once against on the DL.
Garcia made the first start of a rehab stint on Sunday in Memphis. He threw 72 pitches, including 42 strikes and induced four groundouts to one fly out. But Garcia's start didn't last long innings-wise: 2 2/3 IP, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 SO, 2 BB, 5 H. Hummel covered this game for the Post-Dispatch as well and quoted Memphis manager Mike Shildt as follows in his detailed gamer:
"I thought the ball was coming out pretty darned good. He had the movement as always, but it's just the consistency," said Shildt.
"We've got to remember he had a setback in spring training. And he had a setback last year, too. But I was really thrilled. It was as clean as I've seen him throw in a while.
"It was the proverbial 'he pitched better than the line.'''
Now we'll do what we've done so often with respect to Garcia's throwing shoulder: wait and see. If he feels good, the Cardinals will presumably give him another rehab start with Memphis in five days.
The righthanded setup man and backup closer has a strained muscle in his shoulder area and will miss at least 6-10 weeks. The shutdown is part of a conservative course of treatment that was agreed upon after the Cardinals and Walden received a second opinion on an MRI. Walden will begin a throwing program after his shutdown period, if he's able.
The Cardinals transferred Pham from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL on May 1. Based on what little I've seen regarding Pham's injury or recovery, a return to game action does not appear near. If you've seen anything, please share it in the comments.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published on Monday morning. It has since been updated to reflect the announcement Mozeliak made during a Monday-afternoon conference call that Carpenter will rejoin the Cardinals on Tuesday in Cleveland for the club's series against the Indians.
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